It's a nightmare scenario. You're involved in a horrific crash. Maybe you sustained serious physical injuries that required prompt medical attention. At worst, you were involved in a fatal crash or lost a loved one.
Immediately after, you're in shock, as your mind can't process what just happened. You go through all the standard post-crash procedures: get medical attention and report your crash to your insurance company.
Then recollection of your crash sets in and induces a level of anxiety you may not have ever experienced before. This is called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It usually affects combat veterans, but can affect anyone who has been involved in a traumatic experience — including a car accident.
How do I know if I have PTSD?
If you were involved in a serious crash that invokes trauma and intense anxiety, you should consider seeing a mental health specialist, in addition to being treated for your physical injuries.
You may be suffering from crash-related PTSD if you experience these symptoms for more than a month:
- Vivid flashbacks of your crash
- An increase in heart rate when recalling the incident
- Intense feelings surrounding the incident — including anger, fear, or shame
- Angry outbursts or prolonged irritability
- Avoid driving altogether in order to not be reminded of the incident
If not promptly addressed, symptoms of PTSD can last for years.
How common is crash-related PTSD?
According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, about nine percent of people who survive serious crashes experience PTSD. In addition:
- About 60 percent of crash survivors who seek mental health treatment are found to suffer from PTSD
- Many crash survivors who are diagnosed with PTSD are also found to have severe depression and/or anxiety
- Crash-related PTSD can also be fueled by a pre-existing mental health issue or prior trauma
- Crash survivors who suffer from PTSD are more likely to sustain other injuries or chronic pain
What treatment is available for PTSD?
WebMD says that there are three primary goals of PTSD therapy:
- Improving symptoms
- Teaching coping skills
- Restoring self-esteem
Patients may undergo the following types of therapy:
- Cognitive processing therapy: A process that helps those with PTSD examine their thought process encompassing a traumatic event. You may discuss your crash with your therapist, then write out the details of the incident. This is done over a 12-week period.
- Prolonged exposure therapy: This process teaches breathing techniques to ease anxiety when recalling the traumatic event. In addition, you would make a list of things that you avoid and learn methods on how to confront them. Lastly, you would recount your crash to your therapist and then listen to a recording of yourself doing so. This is done in 8-15 sessions.
- Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing: Instead of telling your therapist about your traumatic crash, you would concentrate on it while watching or listening to something your therapist is doing. The purpose of this treatment is to get you to think of something positive while recalling a traumatic incident. It's usually done over the course of three months.
In addition to therapy, your doctor may prescribe you medications to ease anxiety, flashbacks, increased heart rate, and other symptoms that come with PTSD. Treatment, however, isn't cheap. Your medical bills will likely pile up. Additionally, you may need to take time off from work to undergo treatment. You shouldn't have to pay out of your own pocket because of someone else's irresponsible and reckless behavior.
If you have sustained PTSD or any other injury after a crash, get an experienced Orange County car accident attorney on your side as soon as possible. Attorney Daniel C. Carlton can devise a legal strategy to help you maximize your compensation. To learn more, contact the Law Offices of Daniel C. Carlton and set up your free case consultation today.