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Can a Car Crash Cause Anxiety?

Home » Can a Car Crash Cause Anxiety?
December 12, 2020
Edward Smith

Post-Traumatic Anxiety After an Accident

Everyone reacts to stress differently.  A car accident is a shocking and traumatic event and people respond in various ways – some may become emotionally numb, or “in shock”, others may cry and still others may become enraged at the other driver.  The aftermath of a serious car accident is often overwhelming and can cause varying levels of anxiety.  Nearly everyone experiences a surge of adrenaline after a violent impact, and that surge can even mask physical symptoms.  

Once the shock wears off, for many people, a sense of anxiety may set in.  This could happen within hours of the accident, or even days later.  If the anxious feelings are intense, prolonged, or interfere with your normal activities, you could be experiencing a form of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  Many of our automobile accident clients require some therapy visits to work through post-traumatic anxiety.

What Are the Symptoms of PTSD?

Anxiety disorders of all kinds are common among Americans.  It is estimated that approximately 18% of the population, around 40 million adults, experience some form of anxiety.  PTSD is not the most common type of anxiety but it is still fairly prevalent, and in nearly all cases it is triggered by experiencing a traumatic life event or series of events.  A car crash is one such event that can lead to a diagnosis of PTSD.  Some of the symptoms of post-traumatic anxiety are:

  • Flashbacks to the trauma
  • Nightmares
  • Social isolation
  • Avoidance of areas or circumstances associated with the trauma
  • Personality changes such as increased agitation or anger

Specifically, PTSD following a car crash often manifests itself as fear and stress while driving or while traveling as a passenger in a vehicle.  Not everyone experiences PTSD after an auto accident.  It is most often an issue following head-on collisions or other types of violent crashes that caused severe injuries.

Treatment for PTSD After a Car Accident

Some anxiety following a car accident is completely normal and should get better with time.  With PTSD, the symptoms do not get better and may worsen.  As soon as it becomes clear that there have been psychological consequences from your accident, intervention should begin.  The earlier the better when it comes to treating PTSD.  A skilled car accident lawyer will be able to help you find an appropriate therapist who has experience treating anxiety disorders that follow traumatic events. 

One of the common therapies for PTSD following a car accident is desensitization.  Your therapist will want you to put yourself in situations that are causing your symptoms.  If driving down the road on which the accident occurs causes fear and anxiety, the treatment may be to do it anyway, repeatedly.  The more you do so, the more your anxiety should lessen.  

PTSD and Your Personal Injury Case

Many people want to ignore the psychological effects they experience following a car accident.  However, if such symptoms linger and begin to affect your life, it is important to seek treatment.  Not only will it help you return to a better frame of mind, but the therapist will document the post-traumatic stress so that it can be presented as one of the elements of damage in your legal case.  The psychological disruption to your life is something for which the negligent driver should be responsible.  

Watch the YouTube video posted by Healthlink explaining PTSD.

Sacramento Personal Injury Lawyer

Hello. I’m Ed Smith, and I’ve been a personal injury lawyer in Sacramento for more than 38 years.  Automobile accidents cause physical injuries, but they can also take an emotional toll on those involved.  If you or anyone you love has suffered due to the actions of a careless or negligent driver, the injury lawyers of are available to dispense free and friendly advice.  Our local phone number is (916) 921-6400 and for those calling from outside the area, we offer a toll-free line: (800) 404-5400. If you like, you can also communicate with us online.

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