How to Deal with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder After a Motor Vehicle Accident


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After being involved in a car accident, there is usually a lot of focus on whether or not there are any physical injuries, but many people don’t consider the mental factors that may come with motor vehicle collisions. If you or a loved one has been involved in a car accident and are feeling depressed, anxious, or even angry, please remember that these emotions are normal to be felt after a significant event like this. If these emotions persist, however, you may be experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to the accident. This article can help you identify some of the symptoms of PTSD and tips on how to best manage them.

What is PTSD?

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that can develop in people following a traumatic event that takes place in their lives. After experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event, some individuals develop symptoms that persist for longer than average and begin interfering with their everyday lives. This interference can affect many areas of an individual’s life, including social life, relationships, the workplace, one’s health, and others.

Symptoms of PTSD
Here is a list of symptoms that an individual may be experiencing as a result of PTSD following a motor vehicle accident:
· Anxiety
· Flashbacks to the collision
· Nightmares
· Restlessness or trouble sleeping
· Hyperarousal
· Detachment or isolation from others
· Feeling distressed
· Difficulty concentrating
· Changes in mood
· Emotional discomfort related to operating a vehicle, entering a car, or being in the vicinity of moving vehicles
· Anger
· Depression

How to Cope with PTSD
PTSD following a car accident can be very difficult, but there are strategies that can be used to help individuals cope with the effects to help mitigate the impact it has on their lives. Here are some tips that can help you cope with PTSD:

1. Talk to Loved Ones
After a traumatic event like a car accident, feeling detached and isolated from those around you is normal. This can lead one to feel alone when dealing with the after-effects of the accident. Sometimes it can feel like nobody will understand what you’re going through, but it’s important to talk to those close to you to help you understand what you’re feeling instead of keeping things bottled up. By sharing your feelings with those you have close relationships with, you can begin to understand what happened, and they can offer you that additional support that you may need – even if you don’t realize it. Reach out to family and friends to begin your healing process.

2. Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
Exercise can have a lot of mental benefits that can help manage mental health conditions like PTSD. Exercise can help individuals with PTSD by improving sleep habits, boosting their mood when endorphins are released, and creating structure and routine in their life. Along with a balanced diet, physical activity can do a lot to help diminish PTSD symptoms.

3. Consider Therapy
Although talking to friends and family can be very helpful when dealing with PTSD, professionals possess the knowledge and skills to help individuals suffering from mental health conditions like PTSD. Therapy is a safe space to work through your trauma and understand your feelings and emotions. Psychotherapists can use methods like Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) which have been shown to be effective in treating post-traumatic stress disorder following motor vehicle accidents. Psychotherapists can help develop coping mechanisms to help you overcome your trauma. Check out Health Locator’s list of psychotherapists.

4. Avoid self-medication
Trauma can be hard to manage, and sometimes individuals turn to alcohol and drugs to help manage their symptoms. Although the use of drugs and alcohol may feel like it’s helping, it is the opposite. Substance abuse can actually worsen symptoms of PTSD and make it harder to cope. It is best to avoid the use of substances when trying to overcome PTSD following a motor vehicle accident.

5. Slowly start driving again
Getting back on the road after a traumatic collision can be frightening, so taking your time to do so is okay. You can start by going on short drives as a passenger and work your way up to driving with others. Developing a safety plan to identify any triggers or areas of concern can also be beneficial. This could include coping mechanisms learned in therapy or having a loved one accompany you while driving. For some, taking driving lessons to get back on the road can be a good step to take to help rebuild your confidence while driving.

Keep in mind that everyone’s experience with overcoming PTSD looks different. What works for one person may not work for another. It’s all about finding the right strategies that work for you. These strategies, combined with the help of a professional, can help you start moving forward with your life. The PTSD journey isn’t always linear, so remember to be kind to yourself and celebrate any progress made, no matter how big or small.

If you're a psychotherapist looking to help individuals suffering with PTSD, get started for free today!

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