How to Cope With the Emotional Trauma of a Car Accident

How to Cope With the Emotional Trauma of a Car Accident

The abrupt and violent disruption of a car accident can have profound emotional repercussions, often overshadowed by the physical injuries sustained. But in the long run, if these issues aren’t dealt with properly, they can become even bigger problems.

The Emotional Aftermath of a Car Accident

While the physical injuries associated with a car accident usually get the immediate attention of doctors and physicians, it’s the emotional trauma that can have the longest lasting impact. In many cases, it can lead to PTSD.

“Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychological condition that can affect people who have experienced or witnessed a terrifying event,” Nolo explains. “The condition was likely first identified as ‘shell shock’ in soldiers returning home from the first World War. Now the American Psychiatric Association has recognized PTSD in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) as a condition that applies to a wider range of human experiences.”

Common symptoms of PTSD in car accident victims include intrusive memories, avoidance, mood changes, and behavior changes. It’s also worth noting that there are different types/levels of PTSD.

“Scientists are beginning to distinguish between PTSD and Complex PTSD (C-PTSD), in which exposure to prolonged, repeated trauma causes severe behavioral problems, including difficulty controlling emotions, substance abuse, eating disorders, or mental difficulties, including amnesia,” Nolo continues.

Generally speaking, PTSD in car accident victims is almost always going to be standard PTSD. It’s unlikely that C-PTSD will occur, as it’s typically the result of repetitive exposure.

Effective Coping Strategies

If you’re dealing with emotional trauma, anxiety, and possible PTSD after a car accident, it’s important that you find healthy coping strategies to accelerate your recovery. Here are some suggestions:

  • Prioritize self-care. After a traumatic event like a car accident, prioritizing self-care is paramount. Self-care activities might include maintaining a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, ensuring you’re getting adequate sleep, and taking time each day for relaxation and decompression. Practices such as mindfulness and meditation can also be powerful tools for managing emotional distress.
  • Don’t isolate yourself. Connecting with others can greatly aid your emotional recovery. Reach out to trusted friends or family members who can offer emotional support. You might also consider joining a support group of others who have experienced similar traumas. Sharing your feelings and experiences with others can often lighten the burden and make the recovery process feel less lonely.
  • Find balance in your life. Maintaining a balanced lifestyle is another effective coping strategy. This can mean balancing work and relaxation, social activity and alone time, and physical activity and rest. Also, try to maintain a regular routine; this can bring a sense of normalcy and predictability back to life after the chaos of a car accident.
  • Find a car accident attorney. Much of the stress and anxiety of car accidents has to do with the complex legal and financial processes that unfold in the wake of the collision. Don’t try to handle this by yourself. As Hancock Injury Attorneys explains,“ Working with someone who has the skills and knowledge to advocate on your behalf can be crucial to a positive outcome to your claim. Focus on rebuilding your life following an accident and allow your attorney to handle the legal aspects of your case.”
  • Explore CBT.  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy that treats problems by modifying dysfunctional emotions, behaviors, and thoughts. CBT encourages patients to challenge distorted cognitions and change destructive patterns of behavior. It’s particularly effective in treating PTSD, anxiety, and depression, all common after a car accident. CBT can equip you with practical strategies to manage distress and improve your mental health.

There’s no “magic sauce” or “secret formula” for overcoming the emotional trauma of a car accident. Every person is going to behave differently. With that being said, exploring tips and strategies like the ones highlighted above may help you move toward a faster recovery.

Adding it All Up

The most important thing you can do for your long-term mental health is to get behind the wheel of a car as soon as possible. The faster you resume driving, the less likely it is that you’ll develop a long-term fear of driving (which can make life very difficult and inconvenient). Speak with your mental health professionals to determine when the timing is right to get back in the driver’s seat.