A serious car crash can leave a person not only with physical injuries but emotional ones. In fact, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), crashes are the leading cause of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It’s estimated that some 40% of crash victims develop PTSD.
Interestingly, the severity of the collision and the circumstances surrounding it are less likely to be the determining factor in whether someone develops post-crash PTSD than characteristics unique to them, such as their own history of trauma and mental health disorders.
Who is most at risk?
A key factor in a crash that can lead to PTSD is whether a person believed – even for a second or two — that they would die. That sense of danger for yourself or even for someone else (for example, children or spouse in the car) can stay with a person.
Many people don’t feel comfortable saying that they have PTSD after a collision – especially one that they and everyone else survived without catastrophic injuries. They think that should be reserved for people who have been in battle or held hostage.
However, the mental health community recognizes that PTSD can arise from any number of sudden or long-term events. Even if you don’t have PTSD, the anxiety and depression that can arise from a car crash can be crippling.
When should you seek help?
You can expect for the crash to dominate your thoughts and cause stress for a time. However, if constant thoughts about it continue to affect your life (for example, causing insomnia), your mood and your interactions with others, it’s best to seek professional help. The same is true if you develop avoidance behaviors you can’t shake – like being afraid to drive or even ride in a car or go near the area where the crash occurred.
It’s not uncommon for people to see a therapist after a serious crash. Mental health treatment can be every bit as important as medical treatment. That’s why if you’re seeking compensation from an at-fault driver’s insurer, it’s crucial to include that treatment in the expenses that it should cover.
That’s why it’s important not to agree to a settlement until you know what your treatment costs will look like. Having experienced legal guidance can help you ensure that you get the settlement to which you’re entitled.