Being in a car accident is traumatizing and terrifying. It doesn’t matter how severe the accident is.
Most of us already know—many through first-hand experience—that a motor vehicle accident can cause more than just physical injury. A high number of crash victims, both drivers and passengers, suffer lingering mental health complications like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
But just how common is PTSD after a car accident?
Experiencing PTSD after a car accident is very common. Data tells us that PTSD is one of the most common mental health outcomes of a motor vehicle crash:
- Motor vehicle accidents are the single leading cause of PTSD among the general (non-military) U.S. population.
- Nearly 40% of car accident survivors develop PTSD.
With over six million vehicle crashes occurring annually in the United States, PTSD is a major concern for the people of our state and nation. Over the last half-century, increasingly more attention has been given to this anxiety disorder that affects millions of people every year. PTSD is highly treatable with the right therapies but can be incapacitating when left unaddressed.
Below we’ll cover topics on:
- Defining PTSD among car accident victims
- Signs and symptoms of PTSD
- Risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing PTSD after a crash
- PTSD treatments
- Compensation available for PTSD patients through a car accident claim
What Is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health condition caused by witnessing or experiencing a “shocking, scary, or dangerous event.”
PTSD is much different from the flood of emotions that happens in the moment (and in the immediate aftermath) of a traumatic event. When faced with a dangerous situation, the body will release “fight or flight” hormones that can cause us to feel frightened, anxious, scared, nervous, stressed, depressed, and a range of other emotions. Those feelings usually disappear soon after the danger has passed.
PTSD, however, lasts much longer than a few hours or days.
The symptoms of PTSD most often begin to show within the first three months following the event. But it’s not unheard of for symptoms to lay dormant until years following a tragedy or traumatic experience. When symptoms are not resolved within six months of onset, the condition is considered to be chronic.
Signs and Symptoms of PTSD After a Car Accident
Experiencing one or more of the symptoms of PTSD once or twice after the event does not mean you have developed the condition. Instead, psychologists and psychiatrists diagnose PTSD only after patients have exhibited symptoms regularly for at least one month.
The following are signs and symptoms of PTSD:
- Flashbacks of the event that include physical signals like sweating and rapid heartbeat
- Recurring nightmares
- Terrifying thoughts
- Avoidance of places and situations reminiscent of the traumatic event
- Avoidance of thoughts and feelings that can trigger negative emotions about the event
- A constant state of heightened reactivity, such as being easily startled, on edge, or easily angered by minor, everyday happenings
- Difficulty sleeping
- Difficulty remembering details of the event
- Loss of interest in favorite activities and hobbies
- Anxiety and distraction that prevents sleeping, eating, concentrating, and other daily tasks
- Feelings of guilt or shame
- Persistent negative thoughts
- Feelings of alienation and detachment
- Mood instability
- Substance abuse
Children may exhibit a unique set of symptoms when suffering post-traumatic stress disorder. In addition to the above-listed symptoms, children and pre-teens may also begin wetting the bed and become especially attached to adult figures. Becoming more disobedient, disrespectful, violent, or aggressive without explanation can also be a symptom of PTSD in children and teens.
Risk Factors for Developing PTSD
About 6% of the population will experience PTSD at some point in their lives. Women are more likely than men to develop PTSD, and members of the military are more likely than civilians to experience the effects of PTSD at least once in their lives.
There are certain risk factors that can increase the odds that a person will suffer PTSD after witnessing or being involved in a traumatic event, like a car accident, sexual assault, military combat, the death of another person, abuse, violent crime, or a natural disaster.
Risk factors for developing PTSD include:
- Having an existing mental health condition
- Suffering depression in the past
- Having suffered previous trauma
- Lacking a support network
- Having suffered past abuse
- Family history of depression or other mental health conditions
- History of substance abuse disorder
- Stressful life circumstances
Treatment for Post-Accident PTSD
A mental health professional who specializes in helping patients cope with trauma is an invaluable resource for those diagnosed with PTSD after a car accident.
Each case of PTSD is uniquely different. As such, a psychiatrist, psychologist, therapist, or other mental health professional will need to work closely with the individual to formulate a plan of treatment. Treatment for PTSD often involves a combination of targeted therapies, mindfulness techniques, support opportunities, and, in some cases, prescription medications.
Possible treatments for PTSD might involve:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Supportive talk therapy
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
- Exposure therapy
- Antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications
- Support groups
- Lifestyle adjustments
- Mindfulness practices
Help for Those Suffering PTSD Symptoms After a Motor Vehicle Crash
If you are suffering the debilitating effects of PTSD after a motor vehicle collision, know that you are not alone.
At Peterson Law Office, we offer compassionate legal guidance to those who have sustained psychological injuries in car accidents caused by another party’s negligence. Our skilled injury advocates know that your experiences are both real and life-altering—and that you have the legal right to seek justice and the means to a full recovery through a civil legal claim.
You may be entitled to compensation for damages that include pain and suffering and mental anguish. Please contact our office to discuss your case in detail during a free case evaluation. There is no fee to learn your rights and legal options following a vehicle collision caused by another motorist.
Contact us today to schedule your no-obligation meeting with an attorney on our team. We know how common PTSD is after a car accident, and we are fully prepared to help you take back your life.