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What Happens if You Get PTSD After a Car Accident?

Dealing with the aftermath of a car accident can be extremely difficult. Beyond just the physical injuries, a serious collision often leaves emotional and psychological scars as well. One of the most common psychological effects is post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Many people are familiar with PTSD in the context of war veterans, but it can happen to anyone who experiences severe trauma. According to research, about 9% of car accident survivors end up developing PTSD. That number rises significantly if the crash resulted in grave injuries.

This article provides an in-depth look into how PTSD manifests after a vehicular crash, its potential complications, and the most effective treatment options available.

What is PTSD?

PTSD is a mental health condition triggered by experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, uncontrollable thoughts about the event, and emotional distress. These symptoms can be severe and have a significant impact on relationships, work, and other areas of life.

After a serious car accident, it’s common to experience some PTSD symptoms initially. But when the symptoms last for more than a month and disrupt your ability to function, it’s considered to be PTSD.

PTSD Symptoms After a Car Accident

Some common PTSD symptoms after a vehicular crash include:

  • Flashbacks – Reliving the crash as if it’s happening again. Sights, sounds, or smells related to the accident can trigger this.
  • Nightmares – Frequent disturbing dreams related to the crash.
  • Avoidance – Avoiding driving or being a passenger in a car. Avoiding crash-related thoughts, feelings, people, or places.
  • Hyperarousal – Being on constant alert for danger. This includes aggression, irritability, reckless behavior, and difficulty sleeping and concentrating.
  • Negative Changes in Thinking and Mood – Having a distorted, negative view of oneself or the world. This includes persistent fear, blame, anger, guilt, or shame related to the crash.
  • Emotional Numbness – Feeling detached from people and activities you used to enjoy.

When to Seek Treatment

It’s normal to have some crash-related fear and anxiety immediately after the accident. But if the symptoms last more than 4 weeks and disrupt your daily life, it’s time to seek PTSD treatment. The sooner PTSD is addressed, the less chance it has of developing into a long-term issue.

Without treatment, PTSD from a car accident can go on for years and severely impact your quality of life. That’s why early intervention is key.

Complications of PTSD After a Car Accident

Some potential complications of PTSD after severe vehicular crashes include:

  • Depression – PTSD and depression often occur together. Depression can make symptoms of PTSD worse.
  • Substance Abuse – Using alcohol or drugs to try to cope with PTSD symptoms temporarily. This often makes the problems worse in the long term.
  • Suicidal Thoughts – PTSD sufferers sometimes consider suicide to escape their emotional pain and trauma.
  • Relationship Problems – Symptoms like emotional numbness and anger outbursts can cause relationship conflicts.
  • Social Isolation – Avoiding people and activities you once enjoyed due to detached emotions or to avoid crash-related triggers.
  • Physical Health Issues – Chronic PTSD is linked to a higher risk for conditions like diabetes and heart disease.
  • Inability to Work – The severity of PTSD symptoms may make it impossible for some people to maintain employment.
  • Legal Issues – Irritability and reckless behavior may lead to problems with the law.
  • Financial Hardship – The costs of treatment combined with lost income can cause money troubles.

Treatments for PTSD After a Car Accident

Fortunately, PTSD is treatable, even when it stems from a severe car crash. Some of the most effective treatment options include:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT helps you reframe negative thought patterns and make positive changes in behaviors affected by PTSD after vehicular crashes. You’ll learn coping strategies for symptoms like flashbacks.

Exposure Therapy

This involves gradually exposing you to memories or situations related to the crash in a safe, controlled way. This helps you face your fears and regain control.


Antidepressants, anti-anxiety meds, and sleep aids can help manage PTSD symptoms like depression, anxiety, and insomnia.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

EMDR uses eye movements while recalling the traumatic event. This helps your brain process the upsetting memory and reduces PTSD symptoms over time.

Support Groups

Support groups for car accident survivors and PTSD sufferers can provide a sense of community and decrease isolation.

Lifestyle Changes

Getting regular exercise, eating healthy foods, practicing relaxation techniques, and joining a support group can all help manage PTSD symptoms.

Talk to a Car Accident Lawyer About Your Options

If you developed PTSD after a negligent driver caused your car accident, you may have legal options. A car accident lawyer Las Vegas can help you recover damages for medical costs, lost wages, and pain and suffering related to the PTSD.

A Las Vegas car accident attorney can negotiate with insurance companies and represent your best interests. They can handle the legal process so you can focus on healing from the PTSD. It’s important to contact an attorney soon after the crash while evidence is still fresh.

Recovering from PTSD After a Car Accident

The good news is PTSD doesn’t have to control your life forever. With proper treatment and support, many people make a full recovery. It takes time, commitment to treatment, and positive lifestyle changes. But it is possible to overcome PTSD and reclaim your mental health after a traumatic car accident.

If you’re still struggling with PTSD weeks or months after a vehicular crash, don’t hesitate to get professional help. The sooner you start the healing process, the sooner you can get back to enjoying life.

Contact Karns & Karns Personal Injury and Accident Attorneys for Help with Your Case

If you or a loved one is suffering from PTSD after a car accident that wasn’t your fault, contact the experienced attorneys at our law firm on 800-4THE-WIN for a free consultation. Our dedicated team can help you pursue maximum compensation so you can access treatment and start the recovery process. Don’t wait to get the help you need. We are here to support you through this difficult time. You deserve justice.

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