After a serious car crash, most people focus on coping with financial setbacks and healing from physical injuries — but physical injuries aren’t the only type of damage victims deal with after an accident. Many car crash survivors experience serious, and sometimes long-lasting, mental health issues. While some emotional distress fades away over time, other psychological effects could be lengthy and have a substantial negative impact on your relationships, work, productivity, and general mental wellbeing.
If you’ve been in a serious car crash and are experiencing emotional distress, don’t try to cope on your own. You need to treat mental health issues just like any physical injuries you sustain in a wreck. Always speak to a doctor or psychiatrist. They might suggest coping methods or recommend psychotherapy or medication.
Keep reading to learn about the three most common mental health issues that are caused by car crashes and how filing a personal injury claim can help cover damages for your pain and suffering.
RELATED ARTICLE: 3 Reasons You Should Get Medical Treatment After a Car Accident
1. Acute and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is the most common mental health issue experienced by car crash survivors. According to the American Psychological Association, motor vehicle accidents are the number one cause of PTSD in the general (non-military) populace. Acute Stress Disorder (ASD) has many of the same symptoms as PTSD but lasts less than four weeks.
Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
PTSD presents differently for everyone and might not fully manifest until weeks after the crash, making it difficult to diagnose. You may be experiencing PTSD if you:
- Have recurring thoughts and flashbacks of the accident
- Experience emotional numbness and difficulty connecting
- Avoid people, places, or activities that remind you of the crash
- Are constantly alert, hyper-vigilant, or paranoid
Seek Help: Untreated PTSD Has Serious Side-Effects
Post-traumatic stress disorder can have a significant impact on your life if you try to cope with it on your own. Letting PTSD go untreated can lead to:
- Anger management issues
- Loneliness and depression
- Suicidal thoughts
Never assume a mental health issue will go away on its own. While some conditions such as ASD have shorter durations, they can still negatively impact your life.
2. Persistent Anxiety
Many people experience minimal or mild anxiety for months after a serious crash, but the National Institutes of Health (NIH) states that moderate and severe levels of anxiety can also be present for weeks or even months after an accident. Females are particularly susceptible to persistent anxiety following a car crash, with around 70% experiencing high levels of anxiety in the first month and almost 15% still experiencing moderate levels of anxiety 6-8 months later.
Anxiety Can Cause Other Health Issues
As anyone with a generalized anxiety disorder can attest, anxiety can have a significant impact on your daily life. People suffering from anxiety caused by specific experiences like a car crash may face additional side effects, such as:
- Phobias: The NIH states that nearly 40% of crash survivors experience persistent phobias related to driving and being in a vehicle. Others also fear people or places related to their crash and experience dystychiphobia, the fear of being in a car accident.
- Panic Attacks: Car crash survivors might have panic attacks triggered by sights, sounds, or even smells that remind them of the crash.
- Sleep Disorders: Victims experiencing high levels of anxiety are also likely to have issues sleeping and with higher-than-normal fatigue. Sleep disorders can result from hyper-vigilance and an inability to relax or frequent nightmares and flashbacks.
- Physical Symptoms: Headaches, dizziness, chest pain, nausea, and muscle tension are all physical symptoms that can be caused by prolonged or frequent anxiety. Anxiety can also worsen conditions like asthma, high blood pressure, and heart disease and weaken your immune system.
Coping With Anxiety After a Car Crash
Unfortunately, many people do not take anxiety seriously and might not even notice that their anxiety is slowly affecting various aspects of their life. Anxiety is not “just stress,” and seeking help for your anxiety does not mean you “aren’t strong enough” to cope with stress on your own. Luckily, these misconceptions are slowly becoming less prevalent today as more and more people recognize anxiety as a viable mental health issue and seek treatment.
Nearly 20% of U.S. adults have been diagnosed with anxiety, making it the most common mental health issue in the country. If you are experiencing prolonged anxiety or any anxiety attacks after a car crash, please don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor or another medical professional for help. You can also learn more about anxiety and other related conditions here.
3. Major Depressive Disorder
Depression, clinically referred to as major depressive disorder (MDD), is another mental health issue common in both crash victims and the general populace. For crash victims, depression is often tied to the physical injuries and pain sustained from the crash.
Warning Signs of Major Depressive Disorder
Depression is a serious issue. If you are experiencing a combination of these symptoms after being in a car crash, you should speak to a psychologist as soon as possible.
- Daily fatigue and lack of energy
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Lack of enjoyment or interest in activities
- Recurring suicidal thoughts
- Decreased concentration
- An inability to sleep or difficulty waking up
- Irrational irritability or anger
- Significant weight loss or gain
Why Is Depression Common After a Car Crash?
Some physical injuries limit victims’ ability to work, exercise, and enjoy day-to-day activities like playing with their children. If you’re suddenly unable to partake in activities that you used to enjoy because of pain or a debilitating injury, it’s no surprise you may become depressed.
Likewise, the stress and worry that victims experience regarding the financial effects of their car crash can also trigger depression. Additionally, many victims who experience anxiety or PTSD also experience depression, and some medications that treat anxiety can also be used to treat depression. If you suspect you might be struggling with depression, please speak to a healthcare professional today to receive the treatment you need.
Mental Health Issues as Damages in Your Injury Claim
Worried about the cost of psychotherapy or mental health medications after a car crash? If you’re filing a personal injury claim for your crash, your attorney can include the cost of medication and psychological therapy as part of the damages owed to you by the negligent party.
Here’s how it works.
Bills and Other Economic Damages
Just like medical expenses you acquire due to physical injuries, seeing a doctor or psychologist for a psychological check-up is an expense that was directly caused by your crash and can be included in your claim. Likewise, medication prescribed by a physician for a mental health issue is also a tangible medical expense.
Pain and Suffering Are Non-Economic Damages
Like pain and suffering, mental health issues are considered non-economic damages in your claim. Putting a value on your physical pain and psychological suffering is a complicated process, but an experienced personal injury attorney can help get you the compensation you deserve.
RELATED ARTICLE: Compensation Explained: What Can I Receive From My Injury Case?
Myers Law Firm Helps Car Crash Victims Struggling With Mental Health Issues
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.
If you or a loved one has been in a serious car crash that resulted in mental health issues or physical injuries, please contact Myers Law Firm today to receive your free consultation. Call us at 888-376-2889 or complete this brief online form to get started.
American Psychological Association. (2003, December 7). Motor vehicle accidents are leading cause of post-traumatic stress disorder [press release]. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/news/ press/releases/2003/12/accidents-ptsd
Anxiety and depression – Facts and statistics. (2016). Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Retrieved from https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics
Fitzharris, M., Fildes, B., & Charlton, J. (2006). Anxiety, acute- and post-traumatic stress symptoms following involvement in traffic crashes. Annu Proc Assoc Adv Automot Med. 50, 297–315. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3217473/
Sutherland, J., Middleton, J., Ornstein, T.J., Lawson, K., & Vickers, K. (2016, August). Assessing accident phobia in mild traumatic brain injury: The accident fear questionnaire. Rehabil Psychol 61(3), 317-327. doi: 10.1037/rep0000090. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27362874
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.