Over 3 million people a year are involved in auto accidents which cause serious bodily injury. But did you know that auto accidents are the leading cause of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as well? According to the American Psychological Association, auto accidents are the leading cause of PTSD for men and second most frequent cause for women (Based on research from the second edition of the book, After the Crash: Psychological Assessment and Treatment of Survivors of Motor Vehicle Accidents).
What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
After experiencing an especially traumatic or distressing event – like a serious car accident – individuals are said to be suffering from post-traumatic stress when they become so preoccupied with the traumatic experience it interferes with normal activities. “Shell-shock” as it has been called, refers to symptoms like flashbacks, nightmares and general emotional numbness following a traumatic experience or event.
Symptoms most often reported by post-traumatic stress victims are a “replay” of the terrifying event and re-experience of the same feelings associated with the event. The victim has no control over when, where, how long or how frequent these reoccurrences happen.
True PTSD symptoms appear after the event and not during the traumatic episode itself. In addition to a serious car accident, PTSD commonly succeeds such disturbing experiences as rape or other sexual abuse, physical attack, combat exposure or childhood physical abuse. People experiencing post-traumatic stress may experience difficulty sleeping, concentrating, or moving forward with their lives. They may withdraw from friends and family, suffer headaches, avoid situations or events that remind them of the experience and easily become agitated and/or depressed. Alcoholism or other substance abuse/addictions are common.
What to do
The most important thing to know if you or a family member has symptoms of PTSD is to understand that it can be treated. Learning more about PTSD is the first step. Seeking a complete evaluation with a licensed psychiatrist or mental health professional to obtain accurate and effective treatment is the next step.