PTSD and Car Crashes: A Silent and Invisible Threat
Jul 24, 2015 - 8:22:17 AM

( - The scars may fade, and the broken bones and cuts might heal, but many people carry the trauma from an auto accident with them for the rest of their lives. Here's how post traumatic stress disorder affects victims of auto accidents.

The Long-Term Physical Effects

The long-term physical effects can range from being totally disabled to being mild and almost unnoticeable. Depending on the nature of the accident, you might walk away from the scene with only a few scratches.

However, many people aren't that lucky. Even when a car accident doesn't leave you horribly disfigured, it can cause lifelong health problems.

For example, neck and back injuries are very difficult problems to solve, and many people never fully recover from them. Sometimes, injuries aren't readily apparent. A back injury may not seem so severe until the next time you need to pick up something heavy, for example.

Scar tissue can form on muscles when you suffer anything above a grade I tear, and this can be difficult, or practically impossible, to resolve without extensive rehab and strength training. Even then, there are no guarantees.

The Financial Effects

It should go without saying, but car accidents tend to be very expensive. Even if you have insurance, the accident can take its toll in out of pocket expenses for the insurance deductible, non-covered medical services, and time off from work to recover.

If your injuries are persistent, you could face time off from work indefinitely, or a dramatic reduction in hours.

Chiropractic bills, massage therapy, and sometimes even physical therapy may not be covered by your insurance. Many times, the only treatment a doctor will prescribe for low back pain is strength training.

There are some studies that suggest that the best medicine for muscle injuries and pain is strength straining, specifically weight training. But, no insurance company will pay for a gym membership.

These small expenses add up, and may create a significant hardship for you.

The Psychological Effects

The psychological effects of being in a car accident are probably the worst. Many people suffer post traumatic stress disorder after being in an accident.

That's right - PTSD. It's not just a psychological illness that affects military personnel. In most cases, the psychological effects of an accident won't go away on their own.

According to Neblett, Beard & Arsenault, an experienced law firm specializing in automobile accidents, the stress of an accident (combined with physical injury) may be grounds for a lawsuit.

The type of damage is difficult to quantify, however, because you often need to be evaluated by a psychologist or psychotherapist.

Some of the symptoms of PTDS include nervousness or anxiety, social withdrawal, nightmares, insomnia, problems at work or at school, substance abuse following the accident, mood swings, or anger or irritability.

You may lash out at people whom you love, and in ways that you wouldn't otherwise do.

It's sort of like psychological scarring, which can make you nervous or apprehensive about getting back into a vehicle, driving, or being around vehicles.

Some people who have been in serious automobile accidents refuse to ride in a car or drive ever again.

Obviously, this isn't healthy, and it can make living, going to work, and socializing difficult or impossible.

Many people who have been in car accidents also develop new phobias related to travel in general, death, accidents unrelated to automobiles, and even guilt.

Guilt, especially if the accident was partially, or fully, ones own fault, may drive an individual into deep depression.

Solving The Problems

The physical and financial problems are quantitative in nature. You go to the doctor, you find help paying for the medical bills, or you get financing or discounted services from your doctor or a hospital.

But, the psychological damage done may take longer to heal. It usually requires that you go to a psychotherapist or psychologist.

You may be prescribed drugs to help you deal with depression or anxiety, but these are temporary, and do not heal psychological damage. They may only mask problems or make it somewhat easier to think about how to solve underlying psychological issues.

However, drugs also always come with side effects which may or may not make the psychological problems worse, delay resolution, or make it feel like there is no problem when there is.

If you think you may be suffering from PTSD, the first thing you should do is see a medical professional for an assessment. Don't try to self-treat or self-diagnose.

Karen R. Ezell is counselor and therapist. She enjoys writing about her experiences on the internet. Her posts can be found mainly on lifestyle and health sites.


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