Many people often lose sight of the fact that psychological well-being is affected after a traumatic experience. Although accident victims may eventually recover physically, psychological well-being may be overlooked and go untreated. It is just as important to treat psychological wounds as it is to treat physical wounds and failure to do so will affect the way in which a victim carries out the rest of his or her life.
After a serious accident, a common occurrence is post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a serious psychological disorder caused by the intense and persistent stress of a traumatic event. Although a victim may not be left physically handicapped by the accident, he or she may be emotionally or psychologically handicapped by PTSD, or other anxiety or stress disorders.
A simple example of PTSD is a car accident victim who is scared to drive again following the event. Even if plenty of time has passed since the accident, and all physical wounds have healed, the victim may still be scared to get into a vehicle, let alone drive one. Just being in a vehicle may cause vivid flashbacks, intense stress, and feelings of vulnerability. Simple cues in the environment (such as being in the car) may trigger an emotional response where the victim will relive the events (mentally) that occurred during the traumatic experience.
Each person reacts differently after an accident – some people may be in a minor, non-life-threatening accident and suffer PTSD, while others may get into a serious accident and show no signs or symptoms of the disorder. Depression and anxiety may also occur after a traumatic event. If left untreated, these disorders can escalate and lead to larger problems in the long run, such as increased stress and the avoidance of certain situations or activities.
If you or someone you know has been in an accident, a few key symptoms to look for include:
- Nightmares, dreams, and/or flashbacks about the event
- Increased emotional stress and feelings of guilt
- Fear or avoidance of the situations or activities that are similar to or remind the victim of the traumatic experience
- Depression (ranging from mild to serve) or always feeling down
- Emotional reactions to cues in the environment that remind the victim of the accident or cause them to relive it, psychologically