Overcoming fear after an accident and focusing on mental health
When we discuss car accidents, we often focus on physical injuries that can require weeks or months of medical care and recovery time. However, many people also suffer mental health effects, including anxiety and fear. Below we share some keys to overcoming fear after an accident.
Mental Health After an Accident
The Family Doctor website reports that many people can experience post-traumatic stress disorder following a car accident. Symptoms of accident-related PTSD can include:
- General uneasiness or irritability
- Anxiety or fear when driving or riding in a vehicle
- Avoidance of medical appointments
- Invasive and recurring thoughts about the accident
In extreme cases, some people even develop a phobia of accidents called dystychiphobia. This phobia can appear after a serious accident or after the loss of a loved one in an accident, and it can dramatically limit a person’s quality of life. People with this disorder may choose to stay home, limit or eliminate travel altogether and isolate themselves from family and friends.
If you believe you might have PTSD or dystychiphobia, talk to your doctor and ask for a referral to a licensed counselor who specializes in these disorders.
Managing Emotions After a Car Accident
Even if you don’t develop a phobia or PTSD following your accident, feelings of anxiety and fear are a common and normal response to a traumatic event. As the shock of the accident wears off, these emotions might begin to surface.
You might not feel like yourself, but there are steps you can take to manage the overwhelming emotions that come up:
- Talk to others. Share the story of your accident with family, friends, medical providers, clergy or other important people in your life. Telling the story can help you feel less alone, and it can help you mentally process what happened.
- Keep a journal. If thoughts of the accident continue to invade your daily life, keep a journal and express the emotions that come up. Again, writing can help you process feelings.
- Focus on gratitude. Looking for the positive side of an event doesn’t negate that you went through something terrible. However, it can help your brain break a negative thought cycle that could lead to depression or lower your quality of life. Remind yourself that you survived, that you’re progressing in your recovery, or that your family and friends have been supportive.
- Keep moving. If you have injuries, talk to your doctor about what level of activity is appropriate for your recovery. If you can take short walks or go swimming, exercise has been shown to help relieve anxiety and decrease depression.
- Take it slowly. When you’re ready to drive after your accident, go for short distances at first. Choose side streets with less traffic. Build up to longer trips and highway driving.
- Take a course. For some people, taking a defensive driving class can help restore their confidence behind the wheel. Knowing safety recommendations and defensive techniques can help you feel more in control when out on the road.
Finally, it’s important to note that insurance coverage from your accident should include both physical and mental health care. Do not hesitate to ask your primary care doctor for a referral to a counselor, support group or other mental health resource. If you feel anxiety, depression or any other mental health effects after your accident, always discuss those symptoms with your care providers.
If you have been injured in an accident, contact us for a free case evaluation.