Seeking Therapy for Mental Trauma After a Car Accident
Just like their physical counterparts, mental injuries can change your life after an accident. Though they are not always attended to like physical injuries, mental trauma needs to be approached with the same attention and urgency given to physical injuries. These unseen wounds take time, patience, and professional treatment to heal.
Importantly, if you are experiencing mental trauma or anxiety after an accident, you should remember that you are not alone. Studies estimate that at least one-third of car accident survivors experience some sort of anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, or another form of mental health issue. Taking care of your mental health at the same time as your physical injuries will open the doors to the most efficient and complete recovery possible.
If you think your mental health is suffering following an accident, do not hesitate to immediately contact a medical professional—just like you would for a back injury or broken arm.
Types of Mental Trauma Caused by Car Accidents
Just as the body is a system comprised of many parts, your mental state relies on a complex combination of factors that control how you think, feel, and act on a day-to-day basis. The regular functioning of these components may be altered due to a traumatic event such as a car or truck accident.
Some of the most common forms of mental traumas after an accident include the following:
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – A disorder caused by any situation that produces mental or emotional trauma. A sign of PTSD is reoccurring anxiety, thoughts, or dreams about the accident. Those suffering from PTSD are subject to sudden and severe bouts of the disorder’s symptoms.
- Depression – The World Health Organization estimates that about 300 million people around the world have depression. After an accident, symptoms of depression can worsen due to financial stress, personal injury, or the loss of a loved one.
- Dissociation – A type of disorder that causes a person to not feel at home in their body. Two major forms of dissociative disorders are depersonalization and derealization. More details for these issues may be read in the following post: Why Accident Victims Don’t Feel at Home in Their Bodies.
Though these are not the only forms of mental health issues people might experience after a car accident, they are some of the most common. Importantly, these issues are should be treated as illnesses that need the time and attention that a physical injury would also receive.
Why Get Mental Therapy After a Car Accident?
Mental trauma manifests in several ways, some of which are subtle at first. Obsessing over the accident after a long period of time is a sign that your mental state has not yet healed from the trauma you’ve experienced. Additionally, you may find yourself avoiding situations which may resemble the environment that your accident occurred in. These behaviors are often accompanied by nightmares, restless nights, and the symptoms listed above.
Since we must treat mental trauma as an injury, it is important to address it correctly and approach the issue at its earliest stages. Talking to family members and other loved ones may assist your healing process as you work through the emotional and physical wounds of your accident. However, if your symptoms are persistent, it may be time to seek therapy.
Some may feel as though psychiatric issues are a sign that they are permanently damaged—this is simply untrue. Mental trauma is just as much of an injury as a broken bone or a flesh wound. It may take time, but healing is possible. Unfortunately, negative social stigmas have made some ashamed to seek mental therapy after a car crash.
Including your mental injuries in the healing process will provide the most complete and safe road to recovery possible. Importantly, do not wait to talk to a doctor if you think you may be experiencing mental trauma. Just as with any other sickness, the symptoms of trauma may worsen the longer they remain untreated.
Tips for Dealing with Mental Trauma
The following techniques may assist you in coping with your trauma. However, these methods should not be used in favor of visiting a medical professional.
Dialogue with Others
It is important that you do not isolate yourself. Keep up with those close to you and ask them for support. Remember, you do not have to talk about the accident if you do not want to. If you do not have easy access to friends or loved ones, then joining clubs or taking classes are great ways of building new relationships that can provide much-needed emotional nourishment.
In some areas, there may be grief counselors or trauma support groups with resources to help you. Being among people who have experienced the same uncertainty, struggles, or trauma helps you alleviate feelings of isolation and loneliness common to anxiety-sufferers.
If physical injuries are not preventing you from being mobile, it is important to stay active. Active movement can help release your body from the disrupting power of trauma.
When you feel anxiety mounting, practice mindful breathing by paying close attention to your inhaling and exhaling. Tips for mindful breathing that are supported by research may be found here. Additionally, allowing yourself to be emotional can be a powerful tool to overcome anxiety. Acknowledging emotions allows you to accept them as they happen.
Practice Good Health
Making healthy practices a regular part of your routine may help to improve your mental health. Getting the right amount of sleep, avoiding alcohol, and eating whole foods are great habits for physical health and mental clarity. Before your accident, you may have been able to get away with getting little sleep every night, but now that you’re injured, you need to start treating your resting schedule more deliberately.
Car Accident Survivors Can Develop PTSD Up to a Year Later
According to researchers, delayed onset post-traumatic stress disorder can develop up to a year after the accident occurs. In fact, 1 in every 20 accident survivors develops this condition long after their incident.
In the study, roughly 8% of the 301 survivors tested were diagnosed with PTSD at three months. About 10% received a diagnosis of PTSD at 12 months. Of the patients who had PTSD a year following their accident, half of them developed it between 3 and 12 months after the crash.
Delayed onset PTSD is not frequently diagnosed in a clinical setting, so researchers don’t know why post-traumatic stress can be delayed. It may be that the symptoms are not considered enough to be diagnosed as PTSD (sub-clinical) or that the occurrence of additional stressors can increase the likelihood of developing PTSD over time.
The Importance of Seeking Early Treatment
Researchers have made another important discovery: the earlier after an incident a person seeks treatment, the better their recovery.
Whatever the reason for delayed onset PTSD, it’s important for accident survivors to seek help early and address any potential symptoms as soon as they can. Many survivors feel as though they are in the clear if they don’t develop PTSD immediately. This isn’t the case. Physical healing is much different than psychological healing, and taking action to get the help you need is vital for long-term recovery.
Understanding healthy coping strategies means you may be able to lessen the severity of the symptoms over time. Addressing symptoms early also allows family members and loved ones to help the survivor before they are officially diagnosed with PTSD.
Make sure you are taking the steps to recognize post-traumatic stress in yourself or your loved ones.
If you or a loved one have experienced mental trauma due to a car or truck accident, schedule a consultation with HHR today. Our Pennsylvania car accident lawyers have helped thousands of people recover from car accidents by holding their wrongdoers accountable. Call (888) 498-3023 to review your options with us.