Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has become a subject of concern to health professionals and the public in recent years, particularly in cases involving those serving in the Armed Forces.
There are a rising number of service members who return from deployment with a changed personality, suffer flashbacks, have ongoing nightmares, anxiety, depression and other symptoms that greatly affect their ability to function.
But it is not just veterans who are dealing with this condition – anyone who has been involved in a serious car crash is also prone to suffer the effects of PTSD.
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) makes clear that PTSD can develop after a serious car accident.
The NIMH defines PTSD as a condition that stems from an incident that was a “terrifying ordeal that involved physical harm or the threat of physical harm.” The person suffering from the condition may have been injured in a serious car crash, or may have witnessed a loved one being severely injured or killed in a crash.
Symptoms of PTSD After a Serious Car Accident
There are various symptoms of PTSD that may arise after an auto accident. Signs and symptoms may include:
- Frightening thoughts.
- Feeling compelled to stay away from places, events or objects that may be reminders of the crash (such as driving or being a passenger in a vehicle).
- Feeling emotionally “numb.”
- Feelings of guilt.
- Worry and anxiety.
- Diminished or no interest in activities that were enjoyed in the past.
- Difficulty with remembering the car accident.
Long-Term Consequences for Victims of PTSD
It can be a long road to recovery and health for the victim of a serious car accident. The process of healing from severe injuries may require many months or even years of medical treatment, the need for several surgeries, and years of rehabilitation in an attempt to restore some of the victim’s physical and mental capabilities.
In some car accident cases, the victim’s quality of life will be radically altered, such as cases of traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury or disfiguring injuries. Beyond the physical aspects of the injuries, the emotional issues related to PTSD can be significant, and often diminish the ability to function at work or interact normally with loved ones.
PTSD: The Risk Factors
There are several factors that have been identified as playing a role in whether a car accident victim will suffer from PTSD. The fact of having lived through an extremely dangerous event in the car accident, the trauma involved in being injured, the shock and horror of seeing others hurt or killed, and feelings of fear or helplessness are all potential precursors for PTSD.
A medical professional looks for the frequency of specific symptoms when diagnosing PTSD. These symptoms include “hyper-arousal.” This is a condition in which a person is easily startled, feels tense and constantly on edge, and has trouble sleeping or is prone to angry outbursts.
Another symptom of PTSD is that the victim relives the accident when certain factors are present. Avoidance symptoms are those in which the person avoids certain places that could be a reminder of what happened, and suffers other types of emotional damage.
To diagnose PTSD, the medical professional looks for these symptoms, with at least one incident involving re-experiencing the accident, at least three actions considered to be avoidance, and at least two symptoms of hyper-arousal.
Once diagnosed, there are various treatments for sufferers. Some may recover and others face longer term symptoms, with family problems, personal problems, alcoholism, drug addiction and emotional problems.
If you or a loved one has been injured or involved in a serious car crash and is experiencing any symptoms of PTSD, it may be impossible to enjoy life as much as prior to the accident, and it may take many months or years to recover from the condition. Be alert to the symptoms of PTSD so that you can seek the help you need.
It is also important to remember that you may be entitled to compensation for PTSD if another party was at fault in the car accident that triggered the condition.
NIMH – What is Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?