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How Injuries Cause Trauma and PTSD

Home » How Injuries Cause Trauma and PTSD
August 05, 2016
Edward Smith

How Injuries Cause Trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

In a lawsuit for personal injury, lawyers may ask a jury to award damages to the plaintiff for emotional trauma, in addition to their physical injury.

Trauma is More than Just Pain

Emotional trauma is a complex phenomenon and combines multiple layers of response to physical or social stimuli. Not only does the victim experience physical suffering from their injury, but also fear and anxiety preceding and following the injury. The effect of a life-changing injury such as limb loss has radical effects on the victim’s social life as well, as attitudes and reactions of friends and strangers alter the way the victim sees themselves. Traumatic injuries can trigger memories of painful events earlier in the victim’s life, and lead to drug or alcohol abuse. Current genetic research indicates that trauma can even change the expression of our genes, leading to inherited effects in multiple generations.

Watch the Youtube video below as a medical doctor describes symptoms associated with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Injury and Helplessness Create Trauma

The American Psychological Association gives a definition of trauma as “the emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape or natural disaster.” Trauma begins with a response to a perceived threat, also called a stressor. First, the potential victim focuses all of their attention on the stressor. The body prepares itself to defend against the threat: heart rate elevates, blood flow to extremities increases, and vision narrows to focus on the threat. When the victim’s response to the threat is somehow disrupted, the victim experiences trauma. This means that when a victim experiences helplessness in the face of an injury, they begin to exhibit the signs of trauma. These include angry outbursts, extreme agitation, anxiety, and the experience of reliving the incident repeatedly. Victims of trauma also experience difficulty relating to other people.

Trauma May Lead to PTSD

As Vietnam veteran Chris Lambert of Sacramento told ABC 10 Sacramento, PTSD can haunt those who experience trauma long after the event and compound the pain by making victims blame themselves and feel isolated. Trauma is a component of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), but not all trauma leads to PTSD. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-5th Edition (DSM-5), PTSD cases must meet the following criteria:

  • Exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury or sexual violation.
  • The exhibition of one of four ‘clusters’ of symptoms:
  1. Re-experiencing the traumatic event;
  2. Avoidance of stimuli that the victim associates with the traumatic event;
  3. Negative cognitions and mood-related to the traumatic event, such as:
  • Inability to remember or amnesia
  • Negative beliefs about the victim’s self
  • Self-blame for the traumatic event
  • A loss of interest in pleasurable activities
  • Detachment from other people
  • Inability to experience happiness, joy, or other positive emotions
  • Negative emotional states that persist, such as horror, fear, or anger
  1. Changes in experience of arousal, including:
  • Angry outbursts
  • Irritability
  • Excessive vigilance
  • Exaggerated startle response
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Self-destructive behavior

Some Victims Are More Vulnerable to Trauma, PTSD

Some victims are more likely than others to experience trauma or PTSD given the same injury. For example, victims who have experienced childhood abuse or neglect are more likely to develop PTSD, according to the Mayo Clinic. Victims with other mental health issues, like depression or anxiety, are also at elevated risk. People who lack a social support system such as family or friendship ties are also more likely to experience trauma or PTSD.

Watch the Youtube video below by Jamie Marich. Jamie gives a powerful “TedTalk” about physical and emotional wounds caused by trauma and discusses their treatment and care. She also talks about the dangers of doing nothing about trauma.

Experienced Auto Accident and Personal Injury Attorney Serving Roseville

I’m Ed Smith. I’m a Roseville auto accident attorney. If you or someone you hold dear has been seriously hurt in an accident, please give me a call at (916) 921-6400 for free, friendly advice. I have been serving residents of Roseville by helping them to recover compensation for their personal injuries and wrongful deaths for more than 3 decades.

I’m a proud member of the Million Dollar Forum in California. We are an association of experienced trial lawyers who have won many multiple million-dollar lawsuits.

To see a list of my past verdicts and settlements, follow this link to my past verdicts and settlements page.

It is always a good thing to read the reviews for any service provider you intend on using. Read mine here: Yelp, Avvo, and Google.

Ed Smith is the founder of California’s Leading Personal Injury Website –