Many people consider the “trauma” of a car accident to be purely physical, but just about any car accident can have a deep psychological effect on the human mind. According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), car accidents are the most common cause of mental trauma for males (25%), and the second most common cause of trauma for females (13%). In fact, the VA cites that 9% of all car accident victims go on to develop post-traumatic stress disorder, a severe mental health condition that can interfere with daily life. Your physical body may receive little to no injury, yet your emotional state can be shattered. Traumatic memories from the accident can trigger long-term mental and emotional health conditions, such as anxiety and even depression, and may require more than just a few visits to the doctor.
The human mind is vastly complex, comprised of a grid-work of neurons, chemical connections, and hormones, not unlike some busy street with automobiles and stop lights. Everything works smoothly until there is a disturbance. When the human body experiences a traumatic event such as a car crash, the stress hormone cortisol sky-rockets. The body goes into a heightened state of panic. Since the body cannot sustain this state, it will calm itself down within hours or days. It is common to suffer from some form of stress after a serious car accident, but if the anxiety does not decrease after a few months, then it is advisable that you go see a mental health professional. Sometimes, certain symptoms can take up to a month to manifest. These delayed reactions to stress can have a massive impact on your psychological well-being.
Symptoms of Emotional Distress Following a Car Accident
Common symptoms and conditions of mental health deterioration after being involved in a car crash may include:
- Inability to extract enjoyment from everyday activities
- Withdrawal from social events and human contact
- Mood swings ranging from anger to frustration to guilt
- High levels of stress and anxiety
- Nightmares and disrupted sleep patterns such as insomnia
- New fears or phobias developing (such as fear of riding in a car)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
It is important that you see a mental health professional right away if you think you are suffering from mental trauma caused by a car accident. Allowing your mental state to deteriorate can lead to secondary complications such as relationship problems, work conflicts, and at the extreme, an inability to function normally in daily life.
Who do I see About My Accident-Related Psychological Problems?
The first step on the road to mental health recovery is finding a mental health professional who can help you heal.
A mental health professional will advise you on the steps to recovery, but mental health may take a long time to heal. The mental health professional will instruct you in the best ways to handle your accident-related stress and anxiety. Medications to treat symptoms may be recommended by your physician, depending on severity. In addition, relaxation techniques, such as yoga, certain exercises, and controlled breathing, may help calm the mental and emotional states.
Oftentimes, the underlying physical injuries caused by the car accident are the real culprit affecting your emotional health, so going to a doctor to heal your physical body may be the first step in healing your mind and getting you back on track.
Many people who have been in a car accident need help to recover not just physically but also mentally. Conditions such as PTSD and anxiety about driving can be difficult to overcome.
Seeing our psychologist along with our other recovery services (physiotherapy, occupational therapy, chiropractic care, massage therapy) is a great way for our patients to receive the services they need in all aspects of recovery.