PTSD & Traffic Accidents

Post traumatic stress disorder or PTSD is a condition that can occur after a traffic accident. It is a condition that can occur after a disaster, personal injury or other traumatic event. The main symptoms of PTSD include nightmares related to the event, flashbacks related to the event, uncomfortable reactions to things that remind you of the event, upsetting memories of the trauma, feeling numb emotionally, some amnesia of the event, feeling detached from life, lacking interest in normal life activities, flat affect, avoidance of things that remind you of the trauma, problems concentrating, startling easily, having hypervigilence, having an exaggerated startle response, having outbursts of anger, having difficulty falling asleep.

There are no diagnostic tests for PTSD. Instead it is diagnosed based on the symptoms. To qualify for PTSD, the individual must have the symptoms for at least 30 days or longer. If it is shorter than that, the diagnosis is acute stress disorder.

Fortunately, there is treatment for post traumatic stress disorder. It can be prevented with having a great social support system. Doctors can use “desensitization” to treat PTSD. You are supposed to remember the symptoms and express your feelings about it. Memories of the trauma become less frightening as time passes. People with PTSD may also need treatment for depression, substance abuse, or other medical conditions. These things need treatment before attempting desensitizing therapy for PTSD. Sometimes antidepressants such as SSRIs are used to manage the depressive symptoms and anxiolytic medication is used to manage the anxiety.

One study looked at risk factors for post traumatic stress disorder following a traffic accident, looking to try to prevent the disorder from occurring. The study looked at a cohort of individuals in a prospective way. They were all greater than fifteen years of age and were recruited at the time they were being treated at a hospital for their injuries.

Six months later, they took a questionnaire that included a check list scale of post traumatic stress disorder in order to see if anyone had PTSD. Patients with a high score were compared to those who had a lower score on the check list, also called the PCLS. The idea was to find those individuals who displayed certain factors that increased the risk of PTSD.

A total of 592 people returned the 6 month questionnaire. A total of 541 completed the PCLS test. A total of 100 participants had a higher score of 44 on the test, suggesting that they might have PTSD. A total of 541 participants experienced a lower score on the PCLS test. Factors that played into developing PTSD included more severe injuries at the time of the accident, having post traumatic amnesia, persistent pain 6 months after the accident and feeling not responsible for their accident. Users of motorcycles had lesser odds of developing post traumatic stress disorder.

The researchers concluded by saying that post traumatic amnesia, feelings of not being responsible for their collision and injury severity predicts those people who are more likely to develop post traumatic stress disorder. They also concluded that people on motorcycles suffered less post traumatic stress than people who were in four wheeled vehicles.