There are millions of vehicle accident in this country and thousands of crash deaths and physical injuries. But motor vehicle accidents can also cause post-traumatic stress that can stay for a long time and interfere with everyday life.

Normal feelings

Typical feelings can occur at the accident or days later. These include shock, difficulty with believing that the accident happened, nervousness, worry, fear, uneasiness, or guilt. Sometimes it is hard to stop thinking about the crash.

Post-traumatic stress

These feelings usually go away over time. But strong feelings that remain for a long time and interfere with everyday life may be symptoms of post-traumatic stress.

Signs of post-traumatic stress include an ongoing and general uneasiness feeling, anxiety about operating or riding in vehicles, irritability or extreme worry or anger, nightmares or sleeping problems, feeling unconnected to other events or people and ongoing accident memories that cannot be controlled or stopped.

Coping

There are several ways to cope. Go over the details of the accident with friends, relatives, or a counselor. Share how you felt and acted at the accident and for days afterward.

Speak to your family physician who can monitor recovery and prescribe any needed medications. They can also refer you to other mental health therapists or health care providers.

Be active and exercise often if your injuries allow. Try to return to daily activities and routines.

Lower your risk of other vehicle accidents by being a defensive and careful driver. Avoid distracted driving and impaired or fatigued driving.

Other risk factors

Some things increase the risk of post-traumatic stress after an accident. These include having another post-traumatic event such as assault, rape, another vehicle accident, natural disaster, or terrorist attack.

Other risk factors include being a first responder to traumatic events, if the event was life-threatening, there were accident injuries, support received after the accident, and having underlying depression, anxiety, or other mental disorder.

Seek help

Vehicle accidents can also produce anxiety or depression. Call your physician immediately if you do not feel better over time, have eating or sleeping difficulties, rely on drugs and alcohol as coping mechanisms, your feelings interfere with your daily life and you begin thinking about harming yourself or others.

There are issues you should discuss with your doctor such as whether post-traumatic stress will go away, whether the condition is depression or another mental health condition, whether medicine will be helpful and how long the feelings will last. You should also discuss whether you should see a counselor or therapist.

Anyone involved in a vehicle crash may need legal assistance. A lawyer can help protect your rights and present your case in court and negotiations.