Road to Recovery: How to identify and deal with PTSD after a vehicle crash
When you hear about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, usually your first thought will go straight to a warzone. But did you know the number one cause of PTSD is actually motor vehicle crashes. Shocking, isn’t it?
Now, consider just how many vehicle crashes there are a day and think of how many potential PTSD sufferers there are. And how many of these people even know they’re suffering?
So, what is PTSD?
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a mental health disorder that develops in response to either experiencing or even witnessing a shocking, scary or dangerous event.
These events can be life-threatening situations, but not always. This is where PTSD gets difficult, because it’s personal. It all depends on how someone perceives the event, especially if they’ve had past experience with similar trauma.
PTSD can be devastating.
It can affect your ability to drive, take the bus, return to work or even leave your house. The disorder can be tricky to identify because symptoms are sometimes normalized or even trivialized. Since PTSD isn’t something you can see, you might not even realize what you’re experiencing is unhealthy and it might be preventing you from seeking treatment.
So let’s talk symptoms.
What are the symptoms of PTSD?
Symptoms vary, but generally fall into four categories: intrusive memories, avoidance, negative changes in thinking and changes in physical and emotional reactions.
1. Intrusive memories:
- Emotional stress to reminders of the incident
- Avoiding people, places, activities that remind you of the incident
- Trying not to think of the traumatic event
3. Negative changes in thinking and mood:
- Hopelessness, emotionally numb
- Feeling detached from family and friends
- Lack of interest in activities you used to enjoy
- Problems with memory
- Negative thoughts about yourself, others or the world
- Difficulty maintaining close relationships
4. Changes in physical and emotional reactions:
- Being easily startled or frightened
- Always on guard for danger
- Trouble sleeping
- Trouble concentrating
- Irritability, angry outbursts or aggressive behaviour
- Overwhelming guilt or shame
I’m experiencing some of these symptoms, now what?
Having or being at risk for developing PTSD doesn’t necessarily mean you experience all of these symptoms.
Sometimes you can manage symptoms on your own.
Ways to help:
- Learning relaxation skills
- Breathing exercises
- Grounding exercises
- Facing your fears
Check out the Canadian PTSD Association for other strategies to help with managing symptoms on your own.
Other times, self-help strategies just aren’t enough.
PTSD can be overwhelming and it’s not uncommon to need help to recover. If this is the case, talk to your doctor, psychologist or other health professional. Ask to be screened for PTSD.
Early intervention is key
Usually when someone’s been involved in a motor vehicle crash people will look at their physical injuries or damage to the car. Often, psychological injuries like anxiety and PTSD are overlooked. All too often it’s MONTHS later when a person is not returning to their daily activities that people start paying attention to someone’s emotional well-being, post crash.
The big problem with this?
The longer you wait, the more difficult and longer the recovery period is for PTSD.
So if you’re suffering from PTSD, get help and get on the road to recovery.