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Understanding the emotional trauma of a car accident

Car accidents can be a terrifying experience. The injuries you sustain can change your life, and the memories of the accident might not ever fade away. Sometimes, the emotional trauma of an accident lingers long after the physical injuries have healed. How do you cope with the mental struggles of an accident?

Car accidents lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in nearly 9% of survivors. Other forms of emotional trauma that can manifest from an accident include depression and anxiety. Each of these disorders can significantly affect your life in various ways.

Recognizing the signs

If you’ve been in an accident, you may experience any of the following symptoms of emotional trauma:

  • Feelings of unease and loneliness
  • Fluctuating moodiness and irritability
  • Loss of sleep
  • Nightmares
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Compulsive and obsessive behaviors
  • Withdrawing from social groups
  • Anxiety when driving or being in a car

While it’s normal to feel upset and distraught after an accident, if the feeling persists and develops into trauma, you may also develop these other symptoms. If you notice these behaviors in the days or weeks after an accident, you may be experiencing severe emotional trauma.

Coping with the trauma

If you’re struggling with mental health after an accident, these are steps you can take to improve your well-being:

  • Talk to someone. Whether with a family member, friend, or counselor, it’s essential to express your feelings. Talk about the accident or how the aftermath has affected you and discuss ways that can help you improve.
  • Follow-up with a doctor. You probably saw a doctor immediately after the accident, but if you’re experiencing emotional trauma, it’s crucial that you speak with a doctor again. Your doctor can help you find someone specialized in PTSD, depression, or other disorders so you can get the proper care and treatment to help you through this difficult time.
  • Return to your daily routine. An accident can throw your life off-balance, especially if you sustain an injury from it. As much as possible, it’s important that you find a way to get back into the swing of things. Structured schedules can help you feel in control of your life again and give you something to focus on that isn’t your trauma.
  • Become a defensive driver. It might be scary to get back into a car after an accident, especially when you’re dealing with anxiety or PTSD. Once you feel ready, you should take it slow and learn how to drive defensively. Take steps to limit distractions in the car so you can focus solely on the road.

A car crash can alter your life in ways you never expect. If you’re suffering from emotional trauma, you may feel lost and helpless, but with time and care, you can get your life back on track.


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