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Emotional and Mental Issues After a Car Accident

Psychological and Emotional Damage Caused by Car Crashes

The psychological effects of a car accident can follow you throughout your life. They can linger long after the physical injuries have healed. Unfortunately, many car accident victims and insurance companies downplay the severity of emotional and mental issues after a car accident. This can be detrimental to your life and to your future. Psychological effects after a car accident can reduce your quality of life and can have an impact on your ability to enjoy your hobbies, interact with loved ones, and even maintain employment.

Following an auto accident, you are likely focused on your physical injuries. If you suffered bodily injuries, you need to undergo a medical examination and pursue the course of treatment necessary to heal your body. If you then file a legal claim against the responsible party, you can show your medical records and bills to prove the damages you deserve for these injuries.

Many car accident victims pay less attention to the effects of the accident on their emotional and mental health. There is not widespread attention paid to car accident victims who are emotionally or mentally injured due to either the trauma of the collision itself or the struggle they face in dealing with their physical injuries. An experienced auto accident attorney understands that these injuries can be just as devastating as physical ones. At the Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, we believe that you deserve to recover for all the injuries you sustained, including those that are mental or emotional in nature.

Emotional Distress After Car Accident

Emotional distress is used to refer to the disruption that an accident victim experiences though they may not have an official medical diagnosis for their feelings. Emotional distress after a car crash can lead accident victims to experience many symptoms,1 including:

  • Feelings of anguish
  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Bouts of anger
  • Fearfulness
  • Feelings of humiliation
  • Crying
  • Sleep issues and nightmares
  • Losing appetite
  • Loss of interest in usual activities

Such psychological symptoms can severely interrupt an individual’s life and may cause them difficulty in going to work, attending school, or even getting out of bed in the morning. Some individuals may be too fearful of another accident to get in the car, which can prevent them from attending necessary appointments for treatment and other obligations. Emotional distress can be relatively short-lived but, for some, these feelings and daily interruptions can persist for some time, especially if they still have the reminder of their physical injuries.

Mental Health Conditions following Car Accident

Being traumatized from a car accident can be a serious issue that causes the sufferer extreme interruption in their daily life. Some car accident victims may be diagnosed with a mental health condition that developed because of the incident. The most common mental health condition after an auto accident is post-traumatic stress disorder,2 commonly known as PTSD. Though PTSD is most often associated with soldiers returning from combat, the condition can develop after any type of traumatizing event. Car accidents, especially extremely violent ones, can certainly be traumatizing for victims and can trigger PTSD. In fact, research has shown3 that an estimated nine percent of motor vehicle accident survivors later suffer from PTSD as a result. In addition, many of those with PTSD also simultaneously have an intense fear of driving and/or a related anxiety disorder.

PTSD can have substantial pyschological effects on a person’s life as symptoms often include:

  • Recurring, intense, and involuntary memories of the accident
  • Flashbacks that sometimes result in periods of “blackout”
  • Terrifying nightmares
  • Avoidance of anything that may remind them of the accident, including driving, riding in cars, or even being around a car
  • Intense emotional or physical distress after encountering any reminder
  • Depression and withdrawal from society
  • Self-harm

In order to cope with PTSD, an accident victim often requires regular therapy for possibly a prolonged period of time. They also may require medications and other aids to help them return to daily life. The costs of this treatment for mental conditions can be just as expensive, if not more so, than the treatment for their physical injuries.

Long-term Psychological Effects of Traumatic Car Accidents

It is clear that people involved in nonfatal accidents can experience serious mental stress like PTSD, anxiety, depression, and phobias. But what are the long term concerns?

One research study published in the BMJ found that not only do one-third of children involved in traumatic accidents suffer mental trauma, but they experience those symptoms up to a year afterwards4. Of course, this does not directly translate to adults, but another study found that results were nearly identical in adults.

That study, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, found that “different frequencies and courses of PTSD, phobic travel anxiety, general anxiety, and depression were reported by a third of the subjects at both 3-month and 1-year follow-up.”5 Although some reported improvement over time, others described psychiatric symptoms developing long after the accident. Interestingly, a significant portion of those complaining of persistent symptoms were passengers in the vehicle as opposed to drivers.

We have mentioned that these long-term ramifications can induce phobias, but the practical application of that fear is stifling. People with driving phobias have trouble getting to work, transporting their kids, or otherwise completing daily tasks that most people take for granted.  Some people may feel symptoms of anxiety when passing the site of the accident, experiencing similar conditions while in a car (like rain), or when triggered by any number of other things that remind them of the crash.

These traumas from a car accident may be unexpected and debilitating, but there are things that can be done to help alleviate some of the symptoms.

  • Don’t be afraid to talk about what you are feeling with family, friends, and especially your doctor. There are very effective treatments for these types of conditions and one should not shy away from them for fear of stigma.
  • Try to stay engaged in your daily life and routine. Depression and anxiety can quickly take hold of one’s life. However, attempting to stay active in your life, exercise routine, daily tasks, etcetera can make a real difference. Take part in activities that don’t bother any injuries you sustained during the accident. Your family doctor can help you figure out how much you can do safely.
  • Follow up with your family doctor. Your doctor can give you referrals to other health care providers if necessary. He or she can monitor your recovery and prescribe any medicine you may need. They can refer you to a mental health specialist or therapist to help you work through your feelings.
  • Try to get back to daily activities and routines. Traffic accidents make some people limit what they do. It’s important to try to get back to your usual activities. Even if you’re uncomfortable or scared at first, it’s part of healing.
  • Learn to be a defensive driver. Driving or riding in cars might be hard after the accident. You can lower your risk of future accidents or injuries by practicing defensive driving. Always drive carefully, wear your seat belt, and avoid distractions while you’re driving. These include eating, talking on the phone, or texting. Avoid driving when you’re tired. Never drive if you have had alcohol or taken drugs or medicines that affect your judgment.

Contact an experienced auto accident attorney in Clearwater for a free consultation today.

If you have been the victim of a motor vehicle accident, you deserve to fully recover for any physical, emotional, and mental injuries you suffered. Proving emotional distress and mental injuries can often be more challenging than proving physical injuries, though the highly skilled car accident lawyers at the Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA know how to gather and present evidence of all types of injuries so that you receive the most favorable outcome possible in your case. Our consultations are free, so please call our Clearwater, Florida office at 727-451-6900 if you believe you may have an auto accident case today.

Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33756

Car Accident Lawyer