Recovering Emotionally and Psychologically After a Car Accident

When Oregon motorists have been involved in a serious car accident, they often find that recovering from trauma at an emotional level is every bit as difficult, or even more so, than getting over the physical damage caused to them in the crash. They are often surprised to discover that even if they feel relatively unharmed immediately after the accident, they can start to experience emotional difficulties days, weeks or even months after the crash.

Our Portland personal injury lawyers understand that in many cases, psychological trauma sets in after an exceptionally frightening experience, like a bad car accident. What makes it even more difficult is that family and friends find it difficult to understand what the accident victim is going through on an emotional level. However, experts agree that:

  • Emotional recovery is an important part of healing after a road accident.
  • Symptoms after traumatic accidents can include emotional and cognitive difficulties alongside the physical damage.

What victims and personal injury attorneys want negligent drivers and their insurance companies to realize is that psychological trauma is every bit as real as physical trauma. In addition, emotional and psychological wounds must be healed after an accident before the victim can be truly described as “better.”

Psychological Trauma Triggers

Specialists agree that psychological trauma can and does occur when a victim survives an extraordinarily frightening event. Even if an accident victim is physically undamaged, they can still feel emotionally shattered, shell shocked and devastated. The number of people affected is staggering, but this should come as no real surprise, as on average one road user in the United States is injured approximately every 15 seconds; one person is killed every 15 minutes.

How do the symptoms present themselves?

After a traumatic road accident, survivors can experience a vast array of feelings, ranging from rage to helplessness to an ongoing sense of impending doom. Symptoms can show themselves within hours of the accident, or they might not appear for months. Emotionally, accident victims can have feelings of:

  • Shock, denial and disbelief
  • Anger, irritability and extreme agitation
  • Guilt at having survived when someone else did not, leading to further feelings of shame or even self-blame
  • Sadness or extreme hopelessness
  • Deep and persistent anxiety, worries and fear
  • Social withdrawal which leads to isolation
  • Feelings of emotional numbness one moment, with extreme mood swings the next

As well as the obvious difficulties these symptoms present in a victim’s daily life, they can also drastically affect their ability to work, or to communicate with friends, family and loved ones. At a cognitive level, people trying to recover emotionally after a serious car accident can also experience:

  • Confusion, difficulty in concentrating on even minor tasks, or forgetfulness
  • Terrifying flashbacks or intrusive memories

Between the emotional and cognitive difficulties, Portland personal injury attorneys point out that the physical ramifications of these psychological problems can include:

  • Insomnia or terrifying nightmares
  • Suddenly elevated, racing heartbeat
  • Extreme fatigue or unusually low energy levels
  • Muscle tension, aches and pains not directly related to the injuries received in the accident itself
  • Blinding headaches or severe stomach disorders
  • Spells of uncontrollable crying
  • Becoming overly vigilant and being very easily startled or frightened

How can psychological or emotional trauma be treated?

The human mind is a wonderful thing, but it is also incredibly complex. As such, no two people will ever react in exactly the same way, even if they were seated directly next to each other when the accident occurred and witnessed exactly the same event.

Experts say that the most important thing for any accident victim to understand is that they should not judge themselves or feel guilty about the way they are reacting to their own trauma. Recovering emotionally after a car accident takes time and it’s not as easy as some of your friends might think to “shake it off,” or to “just get over it.”

Denying your emotional trauma will not help your recovery; burying the symptoms won’t kill them and may only make them worse.

Some of the ways you can help yourself along the way include:

  • Make taking care of yourself a top priority. Eat a good, balanced diet and try to take regular exercise. This will help you to get the rest you need.
  • Talk about it! Let the friends you truly trust know how you’re feeling. Tell your family when and why you’re feeling emotional.
  • Stay active if you’re physically able to do so. Try to maintain a normal, balanced schedule between work and home life. Don’t remove yourself from those things in which you would normally be involved.

Getting professional help

If the symptoms won’t go away, or if they’re getting worse in spite of following the self-help tips above, you should seek professional help, particularly if:

  • The symptoms have persisted unabated for weeks
  • You find you can no longer function normally at work
  • You feel you are having trouble with your home life
  • You find yourself taking unreasonable steps to avoid things that remind you of the accident
  • You feel you need to use alcohol or drugs—even prescription drugs—to cope

A traumatic Oregon road accident can literally change your entire life in an instant. Physical damage can have a negative impact on your finances, your career and your family life, but it’s also important to realize that emotional trauma can be equally devastating. Many people try to cover it up; they feel they should be able to get over an accident easily, particularly if their physical injuries have cleared up.

If you are an accident victim and are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned in this article, you need to understand that you are not alone. Emotional trauma is common and real; it’s just not discussed as much as the more easily diagnosed physical injuries. Don’t suffer in silence. Get the help you need from family, friends or from experienced professionals. You should also consider contacting an experienced and compassionate Portland personal injury attorney. They understand what you’re going through, and they can help you through the process. You shouldn’t have to pay for another driver’s negligence, and you should be compensated for the psychological and emotional trauma you’re experienced, as well as any physical injuries.