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Post-traumatic stress disorder and serious car wrecks

People handle the stress of being in motor vehicle accidents in different ways. The severity of the crashes is one impacting factor. People involved in serious accidents, including those where lives were taken, might have more pronounced effects.

While it is easy to focus on the physical injuries since they can be seen, it is also possible for victims to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to a car crash. This is a mental health condition that must be treated or it can worsen and overtake a person's entire life.

Signs of PTSD

It is normal to have a little anxiety after a car wreck, but this should lessen over time. If you have PTSD, the symptoms will likely intensify as time progresses. The key to determine if you need to seek mental health help is the frequency and intensity of these symptoms.

  • Reminders of the crash, such as horns honking, make you feel anxious. You may have an increased heart rate.
  • You avoid getting into vehicles. This can be a complete avoidance that prevents you from going to work or running errands. It might be a partial avoidance that makes you hesitate before getting into a car to do things you know you can't miss.
  • You might be more vigilant on the roads. Watching for threats, such as swerving or speeding drivers, may become your primary focus in the car.
  • You may be jumpy or on edge in vehicles. Even small events, such as someone stopping suddenly at a stoplight might trigger your fear response.

Treatments for PTSD

Remember, it is always better to take the initiative to see a mental health professional, then find out that you don't truly need help. When you seek a therapeutic professional after a car wreck, they will try to find a treatment plan that meets your needs. These vary depending on the circumstances. You might need behavior, cognitive or exposure therapy. Medications might also be necessary for severe cases.

Some people resist seeking help for PTSD because of the stigma that surrounds mental health care. You aren't alone in suffering from this condition after a traumatic auto accident. Roughly 25 to 33 percent of survivors of motor vehicle crashes have PTSD noticed at or beyond the 30-day mark following the wreck.

Mental health care can be costly, but it isn't something you should avoid if you are showing signs of this condition. Remember, if the accident was someone else's fault, you can seek compensation to try to shift the costs of the crash to them instead of you.

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