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The Unspoken Stress of Being Involved in a Car Accident

Woman crying in front of therapist, seeking comfort and support during a therapy session.

April is Stress Awareness Month.  With so much going on in our world, we can get busy focusing on ourselves and our busy schedules.  But we invite you to reach out to someone that you know who has been in a car accident.  They may be going through some stress or anxiety even if the accident took place months ago.  

Being involved in a car accident is a traumatic experience.  It could be as minor as the disruption of your day, but it could be a life-changing event that could leave you severely injured and without transportation.  In the days, weeks, and even months following the incident it is not uncommon to relive or replay the incident in your mind, which can lead to anxiety or emotional distress.  This blog will explore the unspoken stress of being in a car accident.

The Physical Aftermath of Being in a Car Crash

Getting into an accident can be overwhelming, even if it is a minor accident. Your mind races, and you wonder what could have been done differently. You may begin to ponder if things could have been worse, and you may even start to dread what comes next.  The first thing you typically do is begin to assess the physical damage to yourself, others, and your property.  Your focus will shift to filing insurance claims, visiting the doctor, and dealing with your auto repairs.

Assess injuries

When you’ve been involved in an auto accident, you make sure that everyone is physically okay.  It is natural to look for any blood or make sure that there are no broken bones.  It’s a bit harder to assess internal injuries because you can see them.  It is commonplace to say that you are okay and refuse medical treatment because you want to get back to your life.  But it is important to pay attention to your body; it might give you signals that you are not okay even though you can’t see or feel it immediately.

If you are in pain, don’t rush back to your normal life.  Take the necessary time you need to heal. 

Check Your Car For Damage

After ensuring that everyone is physically okay, you’ll want to assess the condition of the car. Look at the area of impact for signs of damage, broken parts, and dents. You’ll want to determine if the car is driveable.  Consider engaging a professional who specializes in auto collision repair to make this determination. Be sure to take good pictures to capture the full extent of your damage.  

There may also be hidden damage to the car. For example, the car may have been knocked out of alignment, or the engine may have been impacted. One thing that is also overlooked is personal items that could be missing or damaged as a result of the impact. Loose items like laptops could be thrown around, and you may find out later that they are no longer functioning. Try to keep a running list of these items.

The Emotional Impact of a Car Accident

A car accident can be traumatic.  Emotional trauma occurs when you encounter an event that is unusual or unexpected.  This is the very definition of a crash.  Depending on the severity, you might find that you are afraid to get behind the wheel of a car, even as a passenger.  It is not uncommon for someone who has been involved in a car crash to experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  

According to the Mayo Clinic, some of the signs of PTSD include:

Intrusive memories

  1. Recurring memories of the event 
  2. Experiencing flashbacks 
  3. Recurring nightmares  

Avoidance

  1. Avoiding places that remind you of the incident
  2. Refusing to get in a car, thereby removing the possibility of having another accident

Changes in Emotional and Physical Reactions

  1. Inability to Relax
  2. Trouble sleeping
  3. Being easily startled 
  4. Always being on guard for danger
  5. Trouble concentrating
  6. Aggressive behavior
  7. Feeling a high degree of guilt 

The same amount of effort and care should be given to treat emotional injuries as you would a physical injury.  Your emotional and mental well-being are just as important as addressing your physical injuries and repairing your damaged car.

Why This is Important

As a society, we minimize our emotions.  However, not paying attention to our emotional well-being, especially when we are facing trauma, is a mistake.  Getting adequate treatment for trauma will have you back to your old self.  Be kind to yourself; there is no rush or set time for when you will be better.  Give yourself permission to take the time that you need to recover. 

What You Should Do for Emotional Trauma Following an Accident

If you think you have been impacted emotionally as the result of an accident should seek help.   Give yourself permission and space to get better.  And remember that getting the support you need is a sign of strength, not weakness. Here are some additional things you can do to address your mental well-being following an accident:

  1. Acknowledge Your Feelings: You can undergo a range of emotions following a traumatic event.  Those emotions can shift from frustration to sadness, anger, and even guilt.  Experiencing these feelings is necessary and can be therapeutic for you to experience them without judgment. 
  2. Seek Emotional Support:  Talking about your feelings in a loving and caring environment can be helpful.  Reach out to your family and friends and talk with them about what you are going through,
  3. Talk with a Mental Health Professional:  Psychologists and other mental healthcare professionals are trained to help their patients process trauma.  They can provide you with ways to address stress, anxiety, and the fears you may be experiencing.
  4. Practice Self-Care: Try to get an adequate amount of sleep. It may be beneficial to meditate, go for a walk, or even journal. All of these methods have been proven to help reduce stress and can aid in recovery. 
  5. Speak with an attorney who specializes in car crashes. Remove some of the legal pressure from your accident by working with a personal injury attorney. These individuals often have great relationships with professionals in mental health who deal with trauma. Let your attorney handle the stress related to dealing with the insurance company. They will work to negotiate a settlement that includes your physical and emotional well-being.  

If you have been the victim of an automobile accident in Atlanta, GA, or a car wreck in Chicago, IL, and are suffering from emotional trauma, reach out to the personal injury attorneys at Hampton and Hampton.  We will get you the legal help you need.  Contact us today for a free case evaluation

FAQs

Some of the signs of PTSD from a car accident are:

Intrusive memories:  Memories of the accident and trauma that continue to occupy your mind.  An example of this may be flashbacks, which impede your ability to concentrate or perform simple tasks. 

Avoidance of similar events: After experiencing a traumatic event, you may be reluctant to have the same experience, so you may avoid doing something similar altogether. 

Recurring nightmares: When you sleep, your body tries to process events.  The abnormal event of experiencing a traumatic event can upset your natural thought process.  Recurring nightmares can happen as a result of this.  It is your brain’s way of trying to make sense of the event.  

Inability to relax: Your body may be on heightened alert.  As a result, you may stay in “fight or flight” mode and not be able to relax.  Meditation can be a great way to manage this.

You should seek professional help for emotional trauma after an automobile accident if your feelings persist.  If you can’t concentrate or go back to your daily routines, that could also indicate that you need professional assistance.  

If you think a loved one is struggling with emotional trauma after a car accident, try to talk with them and get them to express their feelings.  It is important to create a safe and loving place so that they feel supported. Be sure to encourage them to seek professional help from a personal injury attorney

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