When it comes to car accidents, most people anticipate there will be damage to the vehicles involved. Whether it’s a fender bender with some minor dents and scratches, or a serious collision that crushes the entire frame of a vehicle, damage is to be expected.
There’s also the understanding that physical injuries are part of car crashes. From minor cuts, scrapes, and bruises to broken bones, serious lacerations, and even brain trauma, a collision can lead to all sorts of injuries.
But what most people don’t realize – at least those who’ve never been involved in an accident – is that there’s also a huge psychological component. From drivers to passengers, emotional trauma is common in these situations and needs to be taken seriously.
The Psychological Impact of a Car Accident
“Psychological trauma can happen after living through an extraordinarily scary event,” Achieve Solutions explains. “While traumatic events often involve a threat to life or safety, any situation that results in a person feeling emotionally overwhelmed or devastated can be hurtful—whether there are bodily wounds or not.”
In other words, the severity of the car accident isn’t always a relevant detail. Someone involved in a fender bender could just as easily experience some psychological trauma that requires healing.
Psychological trauma can present itself in a number of symptoms – including emotional symptoms (shock, denial, anger, guilt, sadness, anxiety, worry, fear, mood swings, etc.), physical symptoms (insomnia, fatigue, headache, hypervigilance, crying spells, etc.), and cognitive symptoms (confusion, flashbacks, forgetfulness, etc.). Being aware of the presence of these symptoms is the first key. Addressing them in an appropriate manner that promotes healing is the second step.
How to Promote Psychological Healing
How a car accident victim deals with psychological trauma in the first few days and weeks after an accident will have a significant impact on their long-term recovery. If you find yourself in a situation like this, here are some smart steps you can take:
- Open Up About What Happened
The more you bottle up the emotions you have stemming from the accident, the harder it’ll be to free yourself from the grips of the psychological trauma you experienced.
“Take a moment and jot down everything you can recall about what occurred right before and after the time of impact,” Truitt Law Offices advises its clients who are victims of truck accidents. “Your notes will help to refresh your memory later on.”
You should also open up to close friends and family. If you don’t have a good support system, you may even consider joining an online group where people discuss their experiences and help one another through recovery.
- Give Yourself Some Time
It sounds cliché, but it’s the truth. One of the key factors in emotional and psychological healing is time. The further you get away from the accident, the more you’re able to wrap your brain around what happened and forget some of the vivid pain, suffering, and trauma that went along with the accident.
During this time, it’s best if you avoid the scene of the accident. You may also want to avoid getting behind the wheel of a car for a few days – eventually easing your way back into things at a comfortable pace.
- Keep Up Healthy Routines
It’s easy for isolated psychological trauma to eventually spread to other areas of your life. In order to prevent this from happening, try to keep up some healthy routines. By eating well, exercising, and getting six to eight hours of sleep per night, you can give your mind and body what it needs to be strong.
Know When to Get Help
While you may not feel the need to get professional help immediately after your accident, there comes a time in your battle with emotional trauma that you may need to seek some assistance from a counselor or therapist. Specifically, you should get help if:
- Symptoms last longer than a couple of weeks
- You find it difficult to perform normal duties at work or home
- You have intense physical or emotional responses to certain triggers
- You turn to drugs, alcohol, or medication to cope
Most psychological trauma goes away with time, but serious cases can be different. By getting help as soon as you recognize the problem, you can take positive steps towards a healthy recovery.