Being in a serious car crash or workplace accident is nothing short of traumatic.
Commonly, these type of traumatic events are followed by a period in hospital, time off from work or school, physical pain and suffering, possibly income concerns, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, the list goes on.
Like the ripples in a pond, an accident can result in a circle of ever-widening implications, forcing “normal life” to be put on hold …
Recovering after the Accident
It is therefore not surprising to learn that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is one of the major consequences of motor vehicle accidents, or serious physical injuries in the workplace.
Unfortunately, lack of awareness of the possible psychological damage after the accident usually delays treatment. This information is to help you understand the symptoms, so you can get help promptly!
Supporting your Psychological Recovery
In the same way you are taking steps to support your physical recovery – resting, adapting your home environment, exercising damaged muscles, taking medication, perhaps with a gradual return to work on light duties – it is important to take steps to support your psychological recovery.
It is normal to have some fear or anxiety in the initial period after the accident, as it is any time you have been confronted with a situation in which there is the potential for harm, or even loss of life.
However, if these symptoms are of sufficient severity or continue for more than a few weeks, and are causing problems in your daily life, it is time to seek out professional help. You’ve seen a doctor or physiotherapist about your physical injuries, so seeing a mental health professional about any psychological damage just makes sense.
The Effects of PTSD
The symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder affect four areas of your life: physiologically (body); cognitively (thinking); behaviour; and feelings; and may include the following:
- Hyper vigilance;
- Sleep disturbance;
- Exaggerated startle response;
- Feelings of panic;
- Muscle aches or pains;
- Negative beliefs or expectations about the world, self or others;
- Distorted cognitions about the accident;
- Seeing the world as filled with danger;
- Poor concentration.
- Avoidance of any triggers associated with the accident;
- Withdrawing socially;
- Loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities.
- Inability to experience positive emotions;
If you are experiencing the above symptoms more than 6 weeks after the accident, then you may need to consult your GP and mental health professionals.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is an evidence-based therapy that has been proven to be an effective treatment for PTSD. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a way of helping you to think differently about your memories of the traumatic event, and to modify unhelpful thinking about the accident, self or others, that cause psychological distress.
Fears associated with the accident are usually excessive or unrealistic. Exposure therapy targets the situations or images that are anxiety provoking, but not dangerous in reality. In therapy, the individual gradually learns that the situation is no longer fearful. Your therapist will likely also provide some relaxation exercises, to reduce your bodily tension.
The course of treatment generally requires from eight to twenty sessions, depending on the severity of the condition.
If you have been struggling psychologically after the accident, whether a car crash or workplace injury, please make an appointment to see me. I have worked with many people in similar situations, and believe that collaboration is the key to a high standard of treatment. Consequently, I actively liaise with my client’s medical practitioners, legal representatives, insurance or WorkCover. The focus of treatment is not only reducing your symptoms, but to help you return to your normal life as quickly as possible.
Author: Claire Pang, B Psych (Hons), Masters of Clinical Psychology.
Claire’s work in the hospital environment, the disability sector and private practice has expanded her knowledge and skills in helping people dealing with life’s challenges, such as recovering after a serious car crash or workplace accident. She gains great fulfillment and inspiration through witnessing human resilience again and again in her clinical work.
To make an appointment try Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call Vision Psychology Brisbane on (07) 3088 5422.
- American Psychiatric Association. 2013. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fifth ed.).
- Hickling, Edward, and Blanchard, Edward. 2006. Overcoming the Trauma of Your Motor Vehicle Accident: A Cognitive Behavioral Treatment Program Therapist Guide.
- Leahy, Robert. 2012. Treatment Plans and Intervention for Depression and Anxiety Disorder.