When most people envision a car accident, they picture the physical damage to both the vehicles and individuals involved. The psychological effects, however, are often overlooked. Even in the smallest of fender-benders, an accident takes its toll on everyone involved. For survivors of fatal car wrecks, the psychological impacts are far more severe.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is often seen in military service members. You might be surprised to learn that this condition extends far beyond active duty into nearly any traumatic event a person can experience. Vehicular accidents are no exception, especially for survivors.
Even drivers and passengers who sustain mild to severe injuries experience symptoms of PTSD, according to personal injury attorneys at the Law Office of Daniel H. Rose. For most, however, the symptoms are difficult to identify. The following symptoms are considered red flags in the mental health community:
- Intrusive memories
- Avoidance behaviors or numbing emotions
- Negative impacts on your thoughts or mood
- Changes in your normal emotional reactions
- Insomnia and difficulty sleeping
These symptoms lead to severe anxiety and depression when left unchecked. The DSM-5 diagnoses PTSD when any of these symptoms or feelings do not subside on their own over time. If any of the above begins to affect your day to day life, then it’s important to seek help from a mental health professional.
Immense Fear and Anxiety
PTSD following an auto accident usually creates a fear of driving again, leading to anxiety. For those involved in a car accident, that fear is immensely powerful. They may relive their trauma simply by riding in the passenger seat of a vehicle or experience a panic attack. Their fear may also extend to their driving ability or the abilities of other drivers on the road, worrying that one of the two will cause a repeat of their previous experience.
Both a sign and coping mechanism, individuals suffering from psychological trauma after a car accident will often find ways to avoid individuals in their lives. They might begin to distance themselves from friends, family, and even co-workers or neighbors. Without these key support groups, the symptoms of PTSD begin to worsen over time.
These behaviors can also include feelings of numbness. To deal with the anger and guilt felt after an accident, it may seem easier to simply push any form of emotion aside and become numb. This generally leads to avoidance behaviors. While some time spent alone to cope with the trauma is normal, actions like these that last for more than two weeks can be detrimental to a person’s wellbeing.
Sleep Deprivation and Changes in Emotional Response
Trauma causes an individual to relive the experience, often leading to intense nightmares or an inability to sleep. As the effects of sleep depravation set in, they multiply the anger felt after surviving such a traumatic accident. This leads to a change in emotional responses, which are often shown as short-tempered outbursts. Getting unreasonably angry at spilling a cup of coffee is an excellent example.
That anger has a flip side, as well, feeding into the individual’s depressions. The person may begin to cry over things they normally would not, or simply feel deeply depressed after an outburst. Sleep deprivation changes the way we think and feel for the worse, aside from being extremely unhealthy.