What is Emotional Trauma After an Accident?

Medically reviewed by: Ilbey Ucar – PhD (Psychology)
Last updated date : January 10, 2022

When you have had an accident, your doctors, friends and family all want to fix your physical injuries. The broken bones, muscle tears, stiches, getting you walking and able to do your usual activities becomes the priority. Everyone goes into physical injury repair mode. However, there is little focus on your mental health after an accident. Even less so on the emotional trauma following an accident.

Often when it comes to your mental health after accident, people and even experts aren’t sure exactly how you will respond. The unseen wounds are harder to deal with. This is why taking care of emotional trauma after an accident should be a priority. Following an accident, ideally, your doctors will ask you about your mental health and screen for any emotional trauma following an accident. Getting help early can make all the difference.

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Chapter 1:

I Was in an Accident. Am I Experiencing Emotional Trauma?

What is Emotional Trauma After an Accident?

You may be telling yourself that you are fine after going through a major accident. Your physical wounds may be healing but, you may not be aware of deeper wounds inside your head that need attention. Here are a few signs that you need psychological help for emotional trauma after an accident.

  • everyday activity doesn’t give you much joy anymore. Happiness and satisfaction are rare.
  • more likely to alienate yourself from society. More alone time.
  • angry, frustrated, or unhappy most of the time
  • sudden outbursts that are unlike you
  • extremely stress and anxious
  • insomnia issues
  • nightmares
  • scared to ride a vehicle anymore

If you have these issues, chances are the accident took a toll on your mental health. It is better to start getting treatment for the emotional trauma caused by the accident before it takes over your life and negatively affects everything important to you.

Below is a deeper look at some of the most common mental damages accident victims suffer.

Chapter 2:

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder after an Accident

This is the most common issue faced by victims of accidents. The basic signs of PTSD are recurring nightmares, thoughts, memories, flashbacks, and anxiety about the accident. This is bound to happen if the victim is very emotionally sensitive, has a history of prior trauma, lacks social support after the accident, or has prior psychological problems. It may take a while to notice that the victim has post-traumatic stress after the incident.

However, there are many reasons why PTSD is a condition that needs immediate treatment. It can lead to severe anger issues, depression, loneliness, and even suicide. PTSD can be treated with cognitive-behavioural therapy, psychotherapy, and pain management.

Signs of PTSD in children include,

  • may stop speaking or refuse to speak
  • unusual lyclingy and introverted
  • issues that didn’t happen before such as bedwetting

Chapter 3:

Anxiety Issues Caused by Emotional Trauma after an Accident

Man looking frightened thinking about the accident he was involved in when his car hit a tree

Serious crashes/accidents can leave its victims anxious and restless for a long time. This is more noticeable in females. While some may only suffer for a few months, others may experience anxiety issues due to the emotional trauma after an accident, even after 6 to 8 months. If left untreated, anxiety can cause other health complications such as,

  • Panic attacks
  • Sleep disorders
  • Phobias
  • Physical symptoms of depression

Further, extreme anxiety can affect relationships and other important aspects of life.

Chapter 4:

Depression Caused by the Emotional Trauma after an Accident

When it comes to the crash victims, depression is generally about the injuries they sustained or the vehicle damages they need to repair. For the one responsible for the crash, depression can be caused by injuries, guilt, being accountable for the lives they took/ injuries caused, being financially liable to compensate for the victims, etc. You can recognize depression after an accident if you see these signs.
  • Fatigue, and lack of energy
  • Likely to distance themselves and spend the day thinking on their own
  • Feeling guilty, worthless, and hopeless
  • Do not enjoy the things they enjoyed before
  • Being suicidal
  • Inability to keep up the focus
  • Easily irritable
  • Significant bodily changes such as gaining or losing weight

Man thinking about the accident when another car T-boned his car

Depression is common because it easily limits one’s ability to live their life the way one did. Some accidents might cause permanent and significant effects such as losing eyesight, being disabled, losing limbs, etc. All of these affect the mental health of the individual. This pressure may be worse or better given their circumstances. For example, the one responsible for the damages is liable to compensate the victims. On the other hand, the mentioned effects such as anxiety or PTSD also directly linked to depression. Having flashbacks or being anxious to live their life is inevitably going to be stressful.

Chapter 5:

Shock vs. Emotional Trauma

It is unlikely that anyone involved in an accident will survive it without being shocked. The whole point of an accident is not being ready for the incoming damage. Thus, shock after an accident is very normal. There is a line between shock and being under emotional trauma after an accident. Here is how to figure out whether you have crossed the line of shock towards trauma.
  • Shock, stress, and other mental health-related issues not subsiding after a month or so.
  • No longer wants to drive or ride in vehicles.
  • Fearing medical tests or other medical procedures.
  • Overflowing emotions such as anger, frustration, anxiety.
  • Nightmares and flashbacks
  • Trapped in a loop of memories from the accident that don’t go away

These signs are telling you that your mentality needs professional help.

Chapter 6:

I Suffer from Emotional Trauma after an Accident. How Do I Get Help?

Emotional trauma may require you to reach out to a counsellor for help. It is usual for you to be a little shaken in the first month after facing an accident. However, if you feel like the effects are there after a few months, it is high time you reach out for help.

Counsellors have techniques to get inside of your head and recognize what keeps you uneasy.

Below are some other things you can do to help yourself get over the emotional trauma after an accident.

Surround Yourself with a Support System
Good company, good friends, and a supportive family can take you a long way from being depressed. We know it feels like it is better to sit alone and think. However, talking to your friends about how you feel, expressing your emotions when you need to, and admitting if you need any more help is the right thing to do.
Do Things That Keep You Busy and Distracted
Working out, going for a run, going for a swim, or any other way you can relax and enjoy is recommended during this period. If something allows you to feel better, engage in it. Slowly come back to your everyday life. However, if you have injuries, take the activities slowly. If you feel like you want to hurt yourself, you may be suffering from depression. You might try to do so by exerting yourself. If these thoughts do come up, reach out to professional help immediately.
Keep Up with Your Treatment and Medications
Remember that your life is safe. If the accident was massive, it might not have been easy to save you. Do not take this chance for granted. Be responsible enough to keep up with treatment, doctor’s appointments, medication (if prescribed), and other recommendations. It is very normal to feel like the whole world has come to a stop. However, you can change everything back to normal by taking care of yourself.
Learn from Your Experience
All of us learn what we know as we go through life. Look at this incident as a learning opportunity for you. Look at the cost as the sacrifice you made to understand better. Make sure you don’t make the same mistakes that got you into this situation in the first place. In addition, by training your mind to look at unfortunate situations as learning opportunities, you minimize the chance of being depressed.
Don’t Hesitate to Reach out for Professional Help When you Need to
You may develop new pains in areas that were not of concern before. Don’t neglect these because they were not in the picture when the accident happened. These pains can result from the long-term effects of the injuries you suffered and may require urgent medical help. The same goes for your mental health. If hanging out with your friends and being plenty active still bring you insomnia, flashbacks, and nightmares, you need professional help before things get worse. Don’t be shy to help yourself when you need to.
Take Care of Yourself
Pay attention to yourself after an accident. Notice changes and be alert to their growth or disappearance. Do things that don’t make emotional or physical injuries worse. In addition, give yourself time to resume your daily life. You have gone through a major traumatic event, and it’s okay to take small steps towards recovery.
Practice Anxiety-Relieving Techniques
Anxiety is normal after going through a traumatic accident. Here are a few tips on how to deal with anxiety.
  • mindful breathing – inhale and exhale with concentration to that activity. This helps you relax and takes your mind off of what is causing you anxiety.
  • find healthy distractions such as art, music, nature, pets, or family. Reach out to them whenever you feel anxious.
  • workout to stay positive and relaxed.
  • engage in Yoga which is a mindful exercise

Chapter 7:

What Can Trigger Emotional Trauma after an Accident?

Here are a few of the risk factors that increase the potential of emotional trauma after an accident.
  • If the victims have been a part of a trauma, before the accident. The prior event does not have to be about an accident. For example, assault, rape, etc.
  • Already suffering from mental health-related issues such as depression, anxiety, etc.
  • If the accident was massive or life-threatening. In the case the accident had fatalities or severe damage, those involved in it are likely to be traumatized.
  • Support system. It is important that who is around you during this difficult time are not people who make things worse.
  • If the victim is involved in trauma on a daily basis. Such as a first responder.

Chapter 8:

Will I Be Compensated for the Treatment Regarding Emotional Trauma after an Accident?

The accident may have already put you on an enormous financial burden. It can be in terms of physical injuries and property injuries. Also, the effect of injuries affecting your ability to perform and work as you could before. On top of that, emotional help and counselling may be an added expense. However, there are law firms that work towards processing your mental health claims to be compensated.

At Myers Law Firm, we understand that car accident victims often suffer temporary or long-lasting psychological effects in addition to their physical injuries. We are dedicated to making the personal injury claim process as simple and streamlined as possible so that you can focus on taking care of yourself and your family without additional stress. – Myers Law Firm

Psychological trauma counts as important as physical trauma. Therefore, talk to your lawyer about the expenses that are involved in your emotional trauma relieving process. This may require you to prove the negative impact of the accident and how it has affected your mental health.

Chapter 9:

Questions to Ask the Doctor Regarding the Emotional Trauma.

What is happening to you and what you are going through is sudden and hectic. Below are a few questions that may help you direct your concerns better to the doctor/counsellor
  • Why do you think I am suffering from trauma?
  • Will the trauma ever go away?
  • Do you think I am feeling this way because of another mental health condition?
  • Should I use medicine?
  • What treatment would you recommend?
  • When do you think should I come back for a check-up?

Chapter 10:

Why Is It Important to Treat Emotional Trauma after an Accident?

Trauma is a burden you will have to carry with you all your life. This means not getting trauma treated will have you being anxious, depressed, and living with flashbacks of that horrible day for the rest of your life. Not to mention, this can secondarily affect almost every aspect of your life. You may be afraid to get into relationships, small accidents at work may trigger untreated trauma, you may become annoyingly overprotective and nosy. Overall, untreated emotional trauma after an accident may cripple your life even worse than it was after the accident in the long run.

Help is available in the form of counselling, therapy, and other techniques when you need it. It is best to make use of it when you can without waiting until the problem gets out of hand.

At Epsychonline, we have a series of mental health courses or programs. You might find value in our courses of perfectionism, social anxiety or anger. These courses are written by our psychologists and psychiatrists, and the use a range of psychological techniques such distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness and mindfulness.

"Quick online learning, thanks!" Susan

92 sections

6-Weeks Self-Paced

  • Educational Content
  • Quizzes
  • Self-reflection material
  • Suggestions & feedback
  • Worksheet, tips & tools to use

$9.00 $12.00

25% discount