It's safe to say that most people will be involved in an automobile accident at some point in their life. According to the National Center for Statistics & Analysis, there are 3.5 million people injured in a car accident every single year in the United States alone, and almost 42,000 of those people die as a result.
So, anyone who gets into an auto mobile accident and walks away without a scratch should consider themselves very lucky. Heck, even if you do have a scratch, you're lucky if that's the only consequence.
Luckily a lot of accidents aren't fatal, but what most people don't think about are the mental effects that often cause more harm than the physical, and can also take much longer to recover from. Even the most minor incident has the ability to cause long term anxiety, fears, and phobias about driving.
It was once assumed that people who have more severe physical injuries from car accidents are more likely to have psychological issues as well. Only recently have people been accepting that it's not the facts that determine whether an event is traumatic, but your own emotional experience of the event.
A doctor can usually diagnose how long it will take to recover from physical injuries but the problem with psychological damage is there is no way to tell how long it will last. In typical cases it takes about three months to a year to get over the emotional stress of an accident.
But all too often, victims are stuck with persistent issues and anxiety disorders which don't develop until after the accident, sometimes even after the physical injuries have healed. And surprisingly, most people who get persistent anxiety weren't drivers, but passengers in the accident.
Emotional and psychological trauma is the result of an extraordinarily stressful event that shatters your sense of security, making you feel helpless and vulnerable. It's usually not life threatening, but any situation that makes you feel overwhelmed and alone can be traumatic, even if it doesn't cause physical harm.
Some may argue that physiological consequences aren't that serious, but anyone arguing that has clearly not experienced it firsthand. Emotional harm from an accident can range from shock, denial, guilt, anxiety, social withdrawal and mood swings to insomnia, fatigue, headache and muscle pain, confusion and flashbacks.
You may be anxious when driving or riding in cars, or even avoid cars altogether. You may also be nervous or anxious when passing the site of the accident, seeing similar road conditions, or traveling in the vehicle involved in the accident or even just seeing a similar car.
And when you think about it, this seriously affects day to day life for any normal person. Auto mobiles are a necessary part of life nowadays unless you don't mind staying within a mile radius. Psychological trauma is real, valid and damaging.
Although most people associate Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with soldiers after they have been to war, it is now widely recognized that PTSD symptoms can arise in any person that has survived a traumatic event, car accidents being one of the leading causes.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, causes depression, hopelessness, and a general inability to feel positive emotions. Victims feel the need to replay the experience over and over again in their head. They also tend to avoid anything associated with the accident in any way, shape, or form.
Mental distress from a car accident is common to an extent. But if two to three months have gone by and you still avoid certain driving situations, have persistent thoughts or dreams about the accident, or are still experiencing any bad feelings that aren't normal for you, you should seek help from someone qualified in PTSD treatment.
Other than talking about your issues with a psychologist or other mental health professional, there aren't many options out there to help with emotional damage. The best thing you can do is just take care of yourself by eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly and getting plenty of rest.
You should also stay on a regular schedule and have daily or weekly routines. Stay active as much as possible and surround yourself with supportive people. Even if you don't feel that your symptoms are severe enough to seek professional help, it can't hurt to talk about your experience with loved ones.
In a split second, an automobile accident can turn your world upside down. They're one of the most common, yet overlooked sources of psychological trauma. The best way to prevent it is by avoiding accidents in the first place, which is more easily said than done. Simply acknowledging that you have been emotionally hurt is the first step to feeling better.