If you were in a car accident, you may expect to have long-term physical issues to deal with, especially if you experienced significant injuries. What many people don’t expect, however, is the mental trauma that can accompany such an accident. There are a lot of feelings that may need to be processed in the immediate aftermath of an accident, from fear and shock to anger. As time wears on, however, you likely expect that the trauma will disappear; however, in some cases that mental trauma can have long-lasting effects.
Mental Anguish After Your Car Accident
After a car accident, it’s normal to experience some level of mental anguish. However, many people attempt to ignore the symptoms and focus on dealing with the other impacts of the accident, including healing from physical injuries and replacing or repairing items damaged in the accident. Unfortunately, mental anguish can manifest in a way that can limit your ability to function normally following your car accident. Below we discuss some of the most common side-effects:
- Increased fearfulness and anxiety. The first time you get back into a car after being involved in an accident, you may find yourself struggling to get behind the wheel or to start the car. It’s normal to feel more anxious than before in the immediate aftermath of your car accident. This may make it difficult to drive for a period of time, especially to drive past the scene of the accident.
- Mood swings. Your emotions may feel out of control for a while following the accident. You may be more likely to cry unexpectedly or to struggle with anger issues immediately following your accident.
- Sleep disturbances. If you’ve been involved in a car accident, you may struggle with nightmares and other sleep disturbances, especially immediately following the accident. It’s normal to struggle to fall asleep or to rehearse the accident in your mind.
- Loss of appetite. After your accident, you may be disinterested in food or struggle to resume your regular eating habits. You may forget about meals or fail to notice normal hunger cues.
- Loss of interest in normal activities. With the accident taking up a large percentage of your thoughts, you may have less interest in activities that would normally interest you. Generally, this is a short-term complication, and as you gradually recover—both mentally and physically—you will find that your interest in normal activities returns.
Symptoms of PTSD After an Accident
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental disorder that can occur as a result of trauma during a car accident. Car accidents may lead to PTSD for a number of reasons. Individuals who failed to receive appropriate support following their accident may be more likely to develop PTSD, as are those who lost someone during the accident or who believed that their life was in serious danger. Below we discuss some of the most common symptoms experienced by individuals who suffer from PTSD following an accident.
- You may try to avoid situations that remind you of the accident. Avoidance may include a reluctance to drive by the area where the accident occurred, especially if you felt that your actions or some feature of the road led to the accident. You may also be reluctant to get behind the wheel of a car at all, or even to be a passenger in a car. Over time, as symptoms of mental anguish or PTSD increase, you may start to avoid things that you normally enjoy or that are necessary to continue with normal, everyday life.
- You may experience increased anxiety in everyday life. You may be unable to identify a specific source of your anxiety. You may find yourself struggling to deal with everyday events, like getting behind the wheel of a car or being in situations that remind you of the accident. In some cases, unexpected objects or actions can trigger anxiety, such as smells or sights that are associated in your mind with the accident. When mental anguish develops into PTSD, that anxiety may increase to the point that you’re unable to function normally or that you begin to avoid things that you previously enjoyed in an effort to avoid feeling any anxiety.
- You may find it difficult to feel comfortable. You may feel more nervous while driving or jumpier when other drivers engage in unexpected maneuvers, which may lead to increased anxiety in all areas of your life, often to the point that you are unable to function like a regular member of society.
- You may have flashbacks. In severe cases of PTSD, you may experience flashbacks, during which you may relive the accident.
- You may experience increased anxiety about medical procedures. Even though the doctors, nurses, and paramedics who cared for you after your accident weren’t responsible for the accident itself, your brain may associate them with some of your pain and suffering. Accordingly, you may find yourself avoiding medical procedures or feeling more anxiety about visiting the doctor’s office than before your accident.
- You may have ongoing, serious nightmares about the accident that don’t fade with time. It’s normal to have occasional nightmares about the accident or things related to it. In some cases, however, those nightmares may begin to interrupt your normal sleep patterns or make it difficult for you to stay asleep. If nightmares increase in intensity, or if you begin to feel tired or struggle with symptoms of sleep deprivation, you may be suffering from PTSD.
If you believe that you are suffering from PTSD following an accident, it’s important to seek medical attention as soon as possible. Working with a psychologist may help you manage your symptoms and return to normal functioning. PTSD symptoms may linger long-term, but you don’t have to suffer alone.
Dealing With Mental Anguish or PTSD
If you’re struggling with symptoms of mental anguish or PTSD following your accident, it’s important to take steps to address them. The longer you attempt to ignore or push aside your mental anguish, the more difficult it will become to eventually deal with. Instead of letting it control your life, take some of the following steps.
- Be gentle with yourself. In the days immediately following your accident, try to avoid things that cause you undue or unnecessary stress. You may, for example, choose to take a few days off work, even if you weren’t physically injured during the accident. You may need to shift some of your responsibilities to other people. It may take time for you to feel comfortable driving again. If driving continues to cause you anxiety well after your accident, or if your anxiety increases, rather than decreases, the more you drive, you may need to avoid driving or ask someone else to drive for you for a period of time. Using alternative forms of transportation is an effective way to help reduce anxiety in many instances.
- Talk about your experience. Reach out to the people in your life that you trust. Talk to them about the accident and the feelings that you’re struggling most with during its aftermath. When you talk to trustworthy individuals, it can help relieve some of the internal stress and make it easier for you to process everything that you’re feeling.
- Talk with a professional. Many people see reaching out to a psychologist or psychiatrist as a last resort, but if you’ve been involved in a car accident, you may need help processing the trauma and dealing with the emotions and emotional responses associated with the accident. There is no shame in seeking professional help to get over the trauma of your accident. If you notice that symptoms of mental anguish are worsening, or if friends and family members express concerns about you, contact a mental health professional to help you process the mental trauma associated with your accident. A mental health professional may be able to recommend coping strategies to help get you back behind the wheel or help decrease anxiety when you’re in a car.
- Take care of yourself physically. Consider how you would normally take care of yourself, physically speaking. Make sure that you’re getting plenty of rest, including high-quality sleep. Try to eat healthy foods and ensure that you’re properly nourishing your body. If you aren’t physically injured, return to your normal exercise routine as soon as possible. If your injuries prevent this, ask your doctor about what activities you can do as you recover. Your physical health and your mental health are often intertwined, and paying attention to your physical health can help improve your mental health, by decreasing anxiety and making you feel more confident.
- Take care of yourself mentally. It’s often tempting to let your mental wellness slide by the wayside, especially during times of high stress when you have numerous things that you need to get done. If you’re struggling with mental anguish following a car accident, however, it’s important to take care of yourself mentally, too. Make sure that you spend time doing things that you enjoy: participating in yoga, reading, or engaging in your favorite hobbies. Spend time with loved ones. Get out of the house and do something fun, even if you feel a little anxious about leaving the house. As you take care of your mental health in general, you’ll find that it’s easier to get back to normal in the aftermath of an accident.
- Get back to your normal schedule as much as possible. If you were seriously injured, you may not be able to immediately return to your normal schedule. For example, you may be unable to return to work or to engage in some of your normal activities. As soon as possible, however, resume your normal life as best you can. Getting back to normal will help you feel more balanced, and help in your overall recovery.
Does Mental Trauma Count as an Injury?
After you’ve been involved in a car accident that you didn’t cause, you may find yourself involved in negotiations with the at-fault party’s insurance company. Generally, the insurance company will offer funds to help repair or replace your vehicle, as well as compensation for any injuries that you received during the accident. Mental trauma isn’t typically treated the same way as a physical injury—and it may not be as evident immediately following an accident. Over time, however, you may come to recognize signs of mental trauma, from minor fear and frustration to symptoms of PTSD. Depending on the circumstances, you may be eligible to seek compensation for your mental anguish?
You must prove several things to be eligible to seek financial compensation following a car accident. First and foremost, you must prove that another party involved in the accident violated his or her duty of care to you, which led to the accident. When it comes to car accidents, this means proving that the other driver caused the accident. Next, you must prove that the car accident caused your injuries and that those injuries caused you financial hardship. Physical injuries may be easy to prove; however, mental anguish, trauma, and PTSD can also be considered damages after a car accident. If your accident involved damages, then you may be entitled to seek compensation.
To secure compensation for your mental injuries in the aftermath of your accident, you may need to prove that you’ve actually incurred the expenses that you’re requesting. You may also have to show how the trauma has limited you in other areas of your life. Working with a lawyer is one of the most effective ways to determine what type of evidence you will need to provide and how much compensation you may be able to receive for your mental trauma and anguish.
If you were in a car accident, dealing with mental trauma is only one part of the process. You may also find yourself in need of legal assistance to handle your personal injury claim, including the mental trauma that you experienced as a result of your accident. If you’ve been injured in an accident and want legal help, call the Dolman Law Group at (727) 853-6275, or contact us online. One of our experienced attorneys will help you understand your rights and what compensation you may be eligible to seek.
Dolman Law Group
5435 Main Street
New Port Richey, FL, 34652