Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder After a Car Accident
Can you suffer from PTSD after a Car Accident?
Most of us think Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) predominantly affects war veterans, however, this is far from the truth. Post-traumatic stress is an adaptive response to a traumatic or stressful event.
Most of those with post-traumatic stress will not develop PTSD, and, conversely, some individuals will develop PTSD without having post-traumatic stress symptoms. Post-traumatic stress is not a disorder, therefore, requires no medical intervention absent severe symptoms. PTSD, on the other hand, will virtually always benefit from medical or psychological intervention. Post-traumatic stress can happen following any number of traumatic events, including:
- Sexual assault
- Physical assault
- Child abuse
- Exposure to a traumatic event
- Traumatic experiences related to childbirth
- Losing a child
- Any type of serious, traumatic accident (ex: car accident)
- Domestic violence
- War and other types of serious conflict
- Serious health issues
Most people who experience an event perceived as traumatic are likely to show at least some signs of post-traumatic stress, including avoiding anything that reminds the individual of the trauma. Other symptoms of post-traumatic stress could include nightmares, anxiety, feeling fearful, or shaky hands. Post-traumatic stress will generally diminish a few days after the traumatic event occurs. PTSD is a disorder, with symptoms that can last a very long time, preventing the victim from going about his or her normal everyday life. PTSD is also caused by any of the traumas listed above but does not diminish within a fairly short period of time.
Statistics Regarding Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
According to The Refuge, PTSD is much more common than we previously thought and can occur in all age groups. In the United States, an adult’s risk of developing PTSD over the course of their life is about 3.5 percent. This number is significantly lower in Europe, Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Those who have jobs in the United States that place them in the position of being a part of a traumatic event (firefighters, nurses, police officers) have an increased risk of developing PTSD. The highest rates for PTSD occur among military veterans who have been in combat, survivors of sexual assault, and genocide survivors.
The Prevalence of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Associated with Car Accidents
With more than three million individuals injured in motor vehicle accidents each year, PTSD among those survivors is becoming more common. Depending on the person and the severity of the accident, those involved in an auto accident can develop post-traumatic stress symptoms that become chronic, turning into PTSD. Memories of the accident can trigger severe anxiety or fear, resulting in an inability to live the life the individual lived prior to the accident. Some victims of PTSD occurring after an auto accident may be unable to get into a car again, severely limiting their choices and future.
Others may find it difficult to sleep, may suffer from loss of appetite, and may even be unable to work. Of course, an inability to work, coupled with medical expenses, can, in turn, cause severe financial difficulties that result in more anxiety. One estimate has found that as many as nine percent of those who survive a serious auto accident will develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress, while a significant number of survivors will develop PTSD.
Understanding Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
PTSD can cause intrusive thoughts that occur on a fairly regular basis. These thoughts can take the form of frightening or distressing dreams, flashbacks of the event or events, or repeated, involuntary memories of the trauma. These thoughts, memories, or nightmares can be so vivid, that the individual may feel as if he or she is reliving the experience. Those with PTSD will also avoid anything that even remotely reminds them of the traumatic event, including certain activities, specific places, certain situations, or even objects.
Full-blown PTSD can result in noticeable changes in the individual’s personality, including irritability, anger, or even reckless or self-destructive behaviors. Those with PTSD may have a wide variety of negative thoughts and feelings—guilt, anger, fear, shame, etc. PTSD sufferers may also feel as though they are not connected to their present life, or as though they are estranged from the world, including their loved ones. PTSD cannot be diagnosed until the symptoms have lasted for at least a month; while the majority of those with PTSD develop symptoms within months of the trauma, for others, the PTSD can occur later in life, without warning.
How a Doctor Can Help Those with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Early intervention is crucial for those suffering from PTSD, plus there are more treatments available now to those with PTSD than there were in the past. Therapy for those suffering from PTSD can significantly improve the symptoms of PTSD, as well as teaching the individual necessary skills for dealing with PTSD. Most therapy associated with PTSD involves cognitive-behavioral therapies that help the person suffering from PTSD to change the thoughts that disturb his or her life.
Cognitive processing therapy for PTSD sufferers involves talking and writing about the trauma, allowing the therapist to help the individual understand how their thoughts about the trauma are affecting their current life. Prolonged exposure therapy helps those with PTSD confront things that remind them of the traumatic event—things they may have avoided since the event. The individual will be taught breathing techniques to help ease the anxiety attached to the traumatic event, then a list of all the things the individual has been avoiding since the trauma will be made, and the therapist will help the person with PTSD face those things, one by one.
There are some individuals who are simply unable to talk about the trauma, rather can engage in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing or EMDR. The person with PTSD will concentrate on the trauma while watching the therapist do something specific—flash a light, move a hand, make a certain sound. The end game for the individual is to be able to have positive thoughts when remembering the trauma.
Massage and breathing techniques may be useful for some individuals with PTSD, while others may only be helped by medications that can help the individual stop thinking about the traumatic event, feeling more “normal” on a daily basis. Such drugs could include Zoloft, Paxil, Prozac, and Effexor. There are also medications specifically formulated to treat insomnia or nightmares. It can take some time for a doctor to get the correct medication and dosage.
How an Experienced Denver Car Accident Attorney Can Help You
If your PTSD is the result of an accident, caused by the negligence of another person or entity, it is important that you speak to an experienced Denver, Colorado PTSD attorney from the Law Offices of Dianne Sawaya. Attorney Dianne Sawaya is a Denver native who has spent the last two decades helping those who have been injured through no fault of their own. Dianne Sawaya can help those with PTSD get the treatments they need, then get the financial help they are entitled to receive. Contact the Law Offices of Dianne Sawaya today!