Everyone responds to the trauma of a wreck or terrible event differently. Shock and denial, especially right after the overwhelming event occurs, are normal responses.
A person may suffer no effects, while others suffer intense emotional reactions and acute stress long after the crash.
Post-accident shock symptoms may include:
- Unpredictable emotions
- Increased interpersonal conflict
- Rapid heartbeat
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sleep changes
- Sensitivity to certain noises or smells
It’s also possible to experience delayed emotional shock, the trauma of the crash affecting you days or weeks later.
Recovering Emotionally After a Traumatic Accident
Trying to understand your emotions and responses to what happened in your accident is the first step to coping with your thoughts and feelings.
Fortunately, most people are resilient. Stress and fear are normal reactions after a car accident. Most victims are able to move on and resume their lives after a few weeks or months.
There are multiple strategies you can use to increase your well-being and regain a sense of control over your life:
- Allow yourself time to adjust and mourn your losses.
- Get support from people who care about you and are willing to listen.
- Express your feelings via talking or a creative outlet like art or writing.
- Eat balanced meals and get plenty of rest to cope with the stress.
- Engage in routines such as regular meals, exercising, or working on a hobby.
- Avoid making major life decisions immediately afterward.
The American Psychological Association provides a handy resource for building your resilience after a traumatic event.
Even after weeks or months, painful memories and emotions may pop up from time to time. The area the wreck occurred, especially if it’s an intersection or road you frequently drive down, will constantly remind you of the traumatic experience. You may even feel guilty or can’t stop thinking about what happened.
This too is normal. But when triggering places or events continue to cause you stress and anxiety long-term, then it might be time to see a professional.
Dealing With Persistent Feelings of Distress
In rare cases, an auto accident can leave a person feeling hopeless and distressed whenever they get into a car and try to drive or even when performing mundane activities. If you suffered permanent or debilitating injuries after the crash, these can also contribute to feelings of loss and depression.
Being unable to move on from psychological trauma is considered a sign of acute stress or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD can happen after a car accident.
In such cases, you should consult a licensed mental health professional for help moving forward from your trauma.
Don’t think you have to suffer a major car accident to suffer delayed shock or PTSD. Even minor wrecks can potentially trigger prolonged emotional distress or an ongoing general feeling of uneasiness.
Other risk factors for post-traumatic stress include:
- Prior traumatic experiences such as a natural disaster, rape, assault, or previous car wreck.
- Being a first responder.
- Suffering from an underlying disorder like depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues.
- If the car accident was life-threatening.
- If someone was grievously injured or killed in the crash.
- Lack of support after the wreck.
Trauma Recovery Tips After an Auto Accident
Emotional shock and trauma can freeze the body in a state of constant hyperarousal and fear, making you want to withdraw, lash out, or avoid confronting unpleasant feelings.
- Move around. If you are able to, exercise and move around 30 minutes or more most days. Engaging your body helps focus your thoughts and be mindful of the present.
- Connect with others. Isolation will only prolong your suffering. Face-to-face interactions, social activities, and support can help you feel normal. You don’t have to talk about your traumatic experience either, especially if doing so makes you feel worse.
- Ground your nervous system. Even though you may feel anxious or agitated, you can still calm yourself. Breathing exercises, specific smells or sights, or petting an animal can help. Acknowledge your feelings and accept them rather than avoiding them.
- Take care of yourself. A life-threatening event can disturb your routine and peace of mind. Reclaim it by getting 7-9 hours of sleep a night, eating a well-balanced diet, and engage in yoga or other fun hobbies. Talk to your family doctor and see if they can refer you to someone.
- Seek professional therapy for trauma. Everyone heals at their own pace, but if your symptoms aren’t letting up, it may be time to talk to a trauma expert. Look for a reputable therapist if you are:
- Having trouble functioning at work or home
- Suffering severe anxiety, depression, or fear
- Experience nightmares or flashbacks
- Avoiding anything that reminds you of the trauma
- Becoming emotionally numb
- Trying to escape using alcohol or drugs
Getting Professional Treatment
Working through trauma can be difficult. You’ll have to resolve unpleasant feelings and memories, let go of the “fight or flight” response pent-up inside, and learn how to regulate your emotions.
There are a variety of ways a trauma specialist can help you work through your emotional shock, such as somatic experiencing, cognitive behavioral therapy, and EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing).
Helping Children Recover After a Crash
Many times our law firm receives calls from parents whose children were in the vehicle with them at the time of the crash. The kids may be inconsolable, especially since they or a parent were injured.
Emotional or psychological trauma after a wreck can manifest in children in the following ways:
- Regression - A young child may wet the bed, want a bottle, or be scared of being left alone. Be patient and comfort them when they respond in these ways.
- Blaming themself for what happened - Young children especially may think the wreck was their fault. Maybe they were yelling or fighting with another sibling when the accident happened. It’s important they understand that they aren’t the cause of the event.
- Sleep problems - Like adults, some children may have trouble falling asleep, waking up frequently, or have bad dreams. Stuffed animals, extra time together in the evenings, and patience can help them sleep soundly again.
Emotional Suffering and PTSD Compensation After a Car Accident
Auto accidents are terrifying events. The sound and feel of metal crunching into metal, glass shattering, and the force of the airbag and the crash are hard to forget, especially if you are left injured.
At Gary Martin Hays & Associates, we know an auto accident can affect a person physically and emotionally. The psychological effects will stay with you long after your injuries have healed or if the injury results in permanent disability.
Shock and PTSD after a car accident can disrupt your quality of life, make it difficult to concentrate at work, if you’re even able to work at all.
Talk to our personal injury attorneys. We will do everything in our power to get you the maximum compensation for your medical bills and emotional suffering.