The Hidden Pain After Car Accidents

A car accident could affect your life both physically and emotionally. In the USA alone, motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death, with 3-6 million cases reported annually. After an accident, most people will tend to focus mainly on visible physical injuries.

However, most people, even those involved in minor incidents, could experience long-term anxiety, phobia, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Some of these drivers get scared of getting behind the wheel again. They also get traumatized by driving past the accident location at the risk of reliving the incident.

If you or your loved one just got into an accident, how can you spot growing anxiety and PTSD, and how can you overcome it?

Emotional Effects After Car Accidents

After an accident, here are some of the emotional feelings to look out for.

  1. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Motor vehicle accident victims are highly disposed to have post-traumatic stress disorders. As a leading cause of PTSD, studies reveal that accident survivors get this disorder due to a traumatic event that involved injury, actual or threatened death. This long-term ordeal affects the individual by bringing feelings of horror, intense fear, and helplessness.

If you have PTSD after a motor vehicle accident, you might experience feelings of uneasiness. Some of the symptoms of PTSD include.

  • Accident Flashbacks

You may begin experiencing constant and recurrent accident memories. Flashbacks could affect you as you go about your day or in the form of nightmares.

  • Fear

The traumatic disorders come with the fear of ever driving or getting into a car. Most people involved in an accident might take several weeks or months before taking back the wheel.

  • Hyperarousal

A reminder of the car crash, especially sounds, can cause you to be constantly alert, paranoid, and hyper-vigilant. Survivors get startled easily and become irritable.

PTSD feelings can take a long time to heal or disappear, even up to 6 months. With increased avoidance or insufficient emotional processing, your PTSD might worsen.

  1. Constant Anxiety

After a severe or mild car crash, most people will experience anxiety. The anxiety levels are higher within the first few months after the accident and significantly reduces after 6-8 months. 

This disorder can also impact your daily life and affect your everyday activities, especially if you need to travel often. Individuals going through anxiety after a car crash could also go through additional issues such as:

  • Panic Attacks

Sounds and smells from the car crash act as triggers for most people who have gone through these incidents.

  • Sleep Disorders

The constant flashbacks interfere with regular sleeping habits and could result in nightmares. If you have high anxiety levels, you will tend to be hyper-vigilant, which results in fatigue and sleeplessness.

  • Increased Phobia

Accident survivors, especially passengers, encounter phobias related to cars. The dread also exhibits when the driver passes through the exact spot where the motor vehicle accident happened.

  • Other Body Issues

High levels of anxiety could result in physical symptoms such as headaches, nausea, and dizziness. For people with severe medical conditions, prolonged stress could worsen the symptoms or trigger re-infections.

  1. Depression Episodes

Apart from PTSD and anxiety, car crash victims could easily become depressed. The irritability and phobia make victims withdraw from everyday activities. The drivers who might have caused injuries to their passengers or death might experience feelings of guilt or worthlessness.

Depression can also result from physical injuries. If you cannot work, exercise, or handle your daily routine activities, you might get into a depressive episode.

Tips to Get Over Anxiety and PTSD After A Car Accident

Getting back behind the wheel after an accident seems impossible. However, there are steps you could take to get your confidence back. Let’s take a closer look at some of them.

  • Talk to Someone

Most car accident victims would like to forget the accident as soon as it happened. Because of this, they prefer not to share the experience with other people. However, talking to a trusted family member, friend or counselor might help you get over the anxiety and PTSD.

Sharing some details about this experience will help you get over the mental anguish and despair. This method also enables you to process your emotions.

If the anxiety is severe, you can go a step further and see a therapist to walk you through how to cope with stress and trauma. Your family doctor could advise on the best therapist.

  • Keep a Journal

An accident can be traumatizing and cause a lot of self-doubts. Going through the memories of the accident helps you process the information better. Use a journal to write down all the details of the accident to help with the recovery process.

  • Improve your Self-Care Habits

If you don’t have severe serious injuries, you can engage in exercise activities to keep busy. Take care of your body by eating healthy meals and meditating to reduce stress levels. The emotional scars will take a few months to heal; therefore, it’s essential to give yourself time.

  • See a Mental Health Professional

PTSD and anxiety can get severe if left untreated. A mental health professional is well-suited to advise on coping mechanisms and medications to deal with the disorders. Individuals going through depression need mental health advice to help deal with the episodes and reduce the suicidal risks.

  • Get Back to Your Normal Routine

Motor vehicle accidents can interrupt your daily routine, especially if you are traumatized. It’s essential to get back to your routine to get over the anxiety and depressive attacks.

This might be tough and challenging at first but tends to improve over time. Furthermore, take part in the activities you like such as going for a walk or reading a book.

  • Go for Short Drives

Anxiety and PTSD can make it hard to go back to the road. Most drivers go through intense fear and emotions when it’s time to drive again.

You can start slowly by going on short drives in areas with less traffic. This process helps you build back your confidence, and you can get back to driving normally. Ease back on the road as you get treatment from a professional therapist.

  • Drive-By the Crash Site

There is a high chance that you’ll drive by the accident site at one point in your life. To get over the anxiety earlier, plan drives around the area to help with the recovering process.

Changing the routes only makes the anxiety worse and is counterproductive. This technique is one way of dealing with nervousness and making it safe for you to return to the road.

  • Take a Defensive Driving Course

Even as a qualified driver, you still need to sharpen your skills on the road. As part of the recovery process, enroll in a class on defensive driving.

This class lowers the risk of future accidents and injuries while building your confidence at the same time. Defensive driving helps you with proactive decisions on the road and enables you to become a better driver.

  • Get a Support Network

Apart from your friends and family members, you can also reach out to a support group or network of accident survivors. Most of these individuals have gone through the same issue; therefore, it’s easier to relate with them as you get through anxiety. In addition, the network is essential when you make progress, such as getting back on the road.


After a motor vehicle accident, you don’t have to suffer alone. However, the lack of physical injuries doesn’t mean there are no emotional effects.

Most survivors develop mild to severe anxiety and PTSD, which could worsen if it’s unaddressed.  If you are experiencing a traumatic disorder, get the support you need from friends and family and seek professional help.

With the proper support, car accident victims can get back to the road safely with confidence.

Posted By
Richard G
Richard has been working in the personal injury law space for nearly a decade.

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