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Mental Health Recovery After an Accident

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As mentioned in our post ‘Can Physical Therapy After a Car Accident Help Me Get Well?’, around six million motor vehicle accidents happen in the US every year, resulting in over 2.5 million injuries. When talking about car accidents, usually, the conversations revolve around physical health, how each injured person should receive care to ensure that they can move and walk around freely in no time. However, the impact of car accidents isn’t just isolated to the physical aspect; rather, they also impact the mental health of not just the victims but their loved ones as well.

The Silent Damage Caused by Auto Accidents

Many car accident victims tend to forget about addressing the profound psychological trauma that comes from such an experience.

This is because they are usually preoccupied with the doctor’s appointments and physical therapy sessions that make up the journey to physical recovery immediately after a crash. As such, motor vehicle accidents are among the leading causes of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the general population.

However, rather than the specific characteristics of the accident, such as how severe it was or who was injured, the victim’s perception and response to the accident have more influence on the development of PTSD.

For instance, researchers from King’s College in London found that avoidance behavior, the suppression of thoughts about the car accident, rumination about the trauma, and dissociation were the things most strongly connected with PTSD symptoms two to six months after the accident.

When to Seek Help

Being overwhelmed with emotions of shock, grief, confusion, helplessness, and fear is normal.

However, if the feeling just doesn’t go away over time and instead continues to get worse, then perhaps it’s time to seek help. According to the American Psychiatric Association, the symptoms of PTSD are:

(1) intrusive thoughts that make one feel like they are reliving the accident;

(2) negative thoughts and feelings that may include distorted beliefs about others;

(3) arousal and reactive symptoms that may entail being highly irritable and having angry outbursts;

(4) avoiding reminders of the traumatic event such as people, places, activities, objects, and situations.

Recovery After an Accident

Recovery from a traumatic incident such as a car crash should be steered towards the betterment of both physical and mental health. Here are some important things to remember when trying to recover from a car accident.

Being Patient With Yourself

A car accident can affect you in ways that are not immediately obvious. In fact, psychologists at Maryville University examined the correlation between a person’s mental wellbeing and their ability to complete responsibilities, which can explain why you might feel unable to properly attend to your tasks at work after your accident.

You might be feeling anxious or scared, and it’s important to give yourself the space to recover and process your emotions. Much like your physical body, your mind requires some time to heal and accept the fact that such a terrible thing has happened. So, while you are still in the process of taking everything in, being patient with yourself is extremely important.

Getting Professional Help

Processing your emotions and accepting the aftermath of the car accident is a physically, mentally, and emotionally draining activity that you shouldn’t shoulder alone. Very Well Mind noted that there are a number of effective PTSD treatments, such as cognitive processing therapy and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EDMR) therapy which can give you the skills necessary to cope with the emotional and mental parts of your experience.

Various medications that can help manage symptoms are also available. It’s probably easier said than done, but by knowing your symptoms and seeking the right treatment, you should already be on your way to a full recovery.


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Written by: Alyssa B.