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PTSD common after a motor vehicle accident

Motor vehicle accidents are one of the most common traumatic events experienced by both men and women. The physical injuries often heal much quicker than the emotional ones. MVAs account for about 3 million injuries each year. According to the National Center for PTSD, about 9 percent of those people will develop post-traumatic stress disorder or a similar anxiety-related disorder which makes it difficult to drive or get in the car. 

Researchers have found that there are certain variables which make the risk of developing PTSD after an MVA more likely: 

  • Poor social support before the accident
  • The presence of a pre-accident mental health issue
  • Previous traumatic events
  • The amount of physical injury from the accident
  • The loss of loved ones in an accident
  • A long rate of recovery from physical injuries following the crash
  • Poor support from family or friends
  • Inability to maintain a pre-accident lifestyle 

Although most people who have been in car crash get medical attention for their physical injuries right away, it may not occur to them to make an appointment with a licensed therapist or psychiatrist for some time. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of PTSD that indicate a person may need treatment include flashbacks, feelings of hopelessness, memory problems, detachment from friends and family, and emotional issues, among others. A survivor of a fatal collision may have overwhelming feelings of guilt or shame, or engage in self-destructive behavior.

While a victim of an MVA may begin experiencing PTSD symptoms within that first month after the crash, the signs of this type of emotional distress may also take much longer to appear. It is much better to seek help quickly to reduce the likelihood of developing a chronic mental health condition. Many treatment approaches have proven effective for car accident survivors. By working with mental health care providers, a person may be able to minimize the risk of developing PTSD, depression or anxiety. 

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