18 Jan

PTSD after an auto accident

Getting into an accident while on the road can be a scary experience, and for some people, even traumatic. Studies have found that MVA (motor vehicle accident) related PTSD (clinically diagnosable post-traumatic stress disorder) affects as many as 2.5 to 7 million people in the United States. Car accidents are actually the leading cause of PTSD among the civilian population in the U.S., according to the American Psychological Association, and about 9% of car accident survivors do develop this condition.

There shouldn’t be any shame in seeking help if you believe that you may have PTSD after an auto accident, particularly if you or someone you love was seriously injured as a result of the crash. However, because MVA-related PTSD isn’t something that is frequently talked about, many people may not recognize the symptoms. 

Here are 10 signs that you could have PTSD from your auto accident and what steps you should take if you suspect that you do:


1 – You are having vivid flashbacks to the moment of the crash

If you are constantly reliving the accident in your mind – looking for ways that you could have avoided it, or just simply thinking through it again and again – that may also be a symptom, but if you are having flashbacks that make you feel as though you were actually at the scene of the accident again, that is likely PTSD. Sometimes there may be triggers, such as smells or sounds that bring on flashbacks; other times, there may be only internal stimuli. 


2 – You are avoiding thinking about or talking about the accident

Avoidance is a common hallmark of this psychiatric disorder, which may be surprising since it is almost the opposite of reliving the crash. If you can’t think about the accident without getting extremely upset, or you constantly avoid discussing it with people who you love and trust, then the accident may have affected you more than on a surface level. 


3 – You are having trouble sleeping

Trouble sleeping can be a sign of PTSD after an auto accident, but it may also be related to pain from injuries you suffered as a result of the accident, so it’s important to clarify this symptom. If you are having nightmares that are waking you up in the middle of the night or causing you not to fall asleep as deeply, or if you are avoiding going to sleep because you fear the nightmares, or if you are sleeping longer to avoid waking up and having to face the realities of your day, that may be related to your mental health rather than just your physical discomfort. 


4 – You are having trouble concentrating while you are awake

If you are not able to concentrate as well as you did before the accident, or you feel like you are in a constant state of distraction or brain fog, you may have PTSD. This is because this type of disorder affects the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex of your brain; it can make the amygdala (which detects threats) hyper-sensitive and make the prefrontal cortex (which regulates decisions and emotions) less active. Because these areas aren’t firing normally, you may find yourself more anxious and less able to focus on work tasks, household chores, relationships, movies, games, or other activities that used to bring you enjoyment. 


5 – You are avoiding driving or being a passenger

Just as avoiding talking or thinking about the accident can be a sign of MVA-related PTSD, avoiding getting into a vehicle or getting into the same vehicle that you were in at the time of the accident may be a sign as well. If you take detours to avoid the scene of the collision, even if it takes you much longer to get to your destination, that can count as avoidance. 


6 – You startle more easily or are extra jumpy

The body’s startle response is a reaction to fear, but if you have post-traumatic stress disorder after an auto accident, this response can be heightened. If you are startling more easily than normal, you may have PTSD. 


7 – You are irritable, aggressive, or angry

This symptom is one of the most common hallmarks of PTSD. If you develop this disorder following an accident, your body may be in a constant state of fight or flight – you may feel on edge, even physically tense, and you may be unreasonably mad for long periods of time or more easily angered by things that shouldn’t cause you to lose your temper. You may find yourself snapping at your children, spouse, friends, or coworkers; you may be agitated when you have no clear reason to be. 


8 – You are experiencing mood swings

Mood swings is one sign of PTSD after an auto accident that is often overlooked, because it may seem completely unrelated to the crash, but if you are experiencing emotional highs and lows close to each other – if you are having feelings of hopelessness or guilt or intrusive thoughts one moment and then are completely happy and carefree the next – that could be a warning sign that something isn’t right. Your family and friends may notice this symptom, or you may be able to hide it, but if your mood doesn’t seem connected to your circumstances like normal, you may have PTSD. 


9 – You are isolating yourself from others. 

It can be incredibly difficult to deal with PTSD. Sometimes it seems like the easiest way to deal with it is pulling back from your friends and family because they won’t understand what you are going through, or because you don’t want to burden them. Isolation is a common sign of PTSD; if you are spending more and more time alone, you may be experiencing this disorder. However, isolation doesn’t help you heal – it only increases the hopelessness you may be feeling. Turning to others and/or to medical professionals is an important step in recovering! 


10 – You are numb or depressed. 

PTSD doesn’t just produce anxiety responses in the body – it can also result in depression, or feelings of negativity, numbness, worthlessness, and difficulty engaging in activities that you used to like. It could even lead to thoughts of self-harm or suicide. There is help, and there is hope. You can call 988 (the suicide hotline) to speak to someone about what you are experiencing, or you can call your medical provider to see what they can to do assist you.


PTSD After An Auto Accident Is Serious. Don’t Wait To Take Action.

Developing PTSD after an auto accident can negatively impact your health, your relationships, your career, and your opportunities, but it doesn’t have to if you seek treatment! The good news is that while it may take time to recover, treatments such as psychotherapy and medications can be extremely effective, and your odds of recovery may be high if you follow a professional treatment plan. 

Your doctor will take the time to properly diagnose your condition and ensure there aren’t other contributing factors that should be addressed at the same time. They may recommend cognitive therapy, exposure therapy, EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing), antidepressants such as Zoloft or Paxil, anti-anxiety medications, Prazosin/Minipress, and other treatment methods depending on the severity of your symptoms. 

Turn To The Florida Law Group For Help. 

Even if you have good health insurance, the costs of psychotherapy, doctor visits, and medication may not be completely covered. Financial stress may only add to your PTSD struggles. If the auto accident that started it all was caused by someone else’s negligence, The Florida Law Group’s experienced personal injury lawyers can help you fight for justice, hold them accountable, and recover maximum monetary damages from their auto insurance company (or your own). You shouldn’t pay anything out of pocket for your injuries or resulting mental health issues. 

At our law firm, we truly care about what you are going through – we have represented many accident victims who suffer from PTSD. We can connect you to quality medical care if you don’t have a current provider, and we will do everything in our power to ensure that you are properly compensated. You don’t have to pay our legal fees until we win your case! Call today to schedule a free consultation and learn more.