The psychological impact of a road traffic accident

Anyone who has been involved in a road traffic accident will know that it is a traumatic and often terrifying experience. The effect of a distressing event like this can be varied from individual to individual, but for many of us the memory of the event fades over time. However, for some a serious road traffic accident can lead to developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), personal injury firm First4Lawyers explains further.

What is PTSD?

PTSD is a type of anxiety disorder that can be developed after being involved in or witnessing traumatic events. It was first recognised among veterans as shell shock. PTSD is estimated to affect one in three people who suffer a traumatic event, though it is unclear why it affects some and not others. Somebody who develops PTSD often relives the event through nightmares and flashbacks and may experience feelings of isolation, irritability and guilt. Some may suffer from insomnia and find concentrating difficult and the condition can be so debilitating that it significantly impacts a person’s life.

How do I know if I’ve got PTSD?

It is totally normal to feel upset and confused after a road traffic accident but most people’s mental health improves naturally after a few weeks. If these feelings of anxiety are still present four weeks after the traumatic event you should go and see your GP. If necessary, your doctor can refer you to mental health specialists for further assessment.

Can PTSD be treated?

The good news is that PTSD can be successfully treated. Any treatment depends on the symptoms and how soon they surface after the event. Treatments include:

  • Monitoring your symptoms to see if you improve naturally.
  • Psychological therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy.
  • Medicines such as anti-depressants.

What if I haven’t got PTSD?

Even if you haven’t got PTSD you are still likely to be upset after a road traffic accident. If you are there are some things you can do to help improve your state of mind.

  • Talk to friends or relatives – It’s good to talk about the details of the accident and how you felt and feel.
  • Stay active – Exercise helps your mental health. Take part in activities that don’t bother any injuries you sustained in the accident.
  • Get back into your routine – It’s easy to think you are limited in what you can do after an accident. Try to get back to your old routine as soon as you physically can.

As well as getting treatment for your physical and metal injuries you may also be entitled to compensation if the road traffic accident was no fault of your own and you may wish to consult a lawyer.