Posted on Leave a comment

The Psychological Safety Anxiety of a Car Crash Months after the Event, it impacts your whānau ora!

REGARDLESS, if you created the accident or were in the accident for some people a motor vehicle accident is more than just paint and insurance claims. For some people it drives deep in their daily thoughts and competency skills and limits or ends their confidence in ever driving again.

I know that  abyss and have felt the never ending doubt in the back of one mind to perform simple tasking in driving that you did almost automatically prior to the crash.  And seeking psychological help and PROPER defensive training is CRITICAL corrective actions in this type of safety matter.

That is why you need to talk it out and remount in to a vehicle as soon as possible. “The general principle is, where there’s fear of something then it’s good to take it in small steps,”  It’s normal to feel some difficult emotions after a vehicle  crash, even for a month or more afterwards. In most car crashes, the traumatic event happens unexpectedly, so you may feel you were unprepared for it or powerless to stop it. When you look at it this way, the emotions that you experience after a vehicle accident make much more sense.

Eventually, once the vehicle  is repaired, insurance companies dealt with, and physical injuries healed, these feelings and reactions will fade.

If you’re struggling after a crash with your whānau ora (mental health and wellbeing), it’s important to get help.

“Traumatic” crashes are often described as sudden, unexpected, unpredictable, uncontrollable and scary. Crashes seem to be more stressful when the actions of other drivers are perceived to be intentionally directed at the victim (such as in road rage incidents), when the driver feels responsible for the crash, when close friends or family are in the vehicle, and when someone is trapped in the vehicle after the crash. Despite improvements in road conditions, vehicle safety and driver education, over 3 million persons are injured in motor vehicle accidents each year. Many of these persons develop post-traumatic stress symptoms that can become chronic. Patients with post-traumatic stress disorder experience disabling memories and anxiety related to the traumatic event. Early identification of these patients is critical to allow for intervention and prevent greater impairment and restriction. The family physician is in an ideal position to identify, treat or refer patients with traumatic responses to traffic accidents. The physician’s awareness of patient characteristics and pre-accident functioning allows him or her to critically evaluate symptoms that may begin to interfere with the resumption of daily activities.

It CAN and HAS happened to some but not everyone it does mean you are weak ( everyone deals with tragic events separately). MVC, accident-related variables, and post-accident variables.

·        Pre-accident variables such as poor ability to cope in reaction to previous traumatic events, the presence of a pre-accident mental health problem (e.g., depression), and poor social support have all been linked to the development of PTSD following severe MVCs.

·        With respect to accident-related variables, the amount of physical injury, potential life-threat, and loss of significant others have been predictive of the development of mental health problems such as PTSD. That is, as the amount of physical injury and fear of dying increase, the chance of developing PTSD also increases.

·        Post-accident variables that are predictive of PTSD following MVCs are: the rate of physical recovery from injury, the level of social support from friends and family, and the level of active reengagement in both work and social activities. To the extent that physical limitations will allow, survivors of MVCs should be encouraged to maintain as much of their pre-accident lifestyle as possible, with as much support from family and friends as possible. Such coping strategies appear to be linked with positive mental health outcomes.

Yes doctors have noted:

The traumatic event is persistently re-experienced in one (or more) of the following ways:

1. Recurrent and intrusive distressing recollections of the event, including images, thoughts, or perceptions. Note: In young children, repetitive play may occur in which themes or aspects of the trauma are expressed.

2. Recurrent distressing dreams of the event. Note: In children, there may be frightening dreams without recognizable content.

3. Acting or feeling as if the traumatic event were recurring (includes a sense of reliving the experience, illusions, hallucinations, and dissociative flashback episodes, including those that occur on awakening or when intoxicated). Note: In young children, trauma-specific re-enactment may occur.

4. Intense psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event.

5. Physiological reactivity on exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event.

Some post-traumatic stress symptoms are frequently associated with vehicular accidents. The re-experiencing of symptoms (flashbacks, distressing memories) is often precipitated by environmental cues. Newscasts frequently report severe traffic accidents and, given high volumes of traffic and heavy dependence on automobiles for transportation, accident victims face constant reminders. “Shattering glass”… “crunching metal”…. “screeching brakes”… “squealing tires”… “the smell of gasoline”… “the screams of passengers”… “feelings of helplessness”… “being out of control”…. “fearful of death”…. “everything seems to happen in slow motion”. These are examples of some of the sounds and images that haunt survivors of motor vehicle crashes (MVCs) long after the crash.

Avoidance symptoms are manifested in alteration of travel behaviors in three ways: driving phobias, limitations on driving and anxious behavior as passengers. Patients may also develop phobic-like responses secondary to the accident, including fear of or resistance to medical examinations, procedures or treatments.

Because accidents tend to be “man-made,” the physician should anticipate a complex interplay of emotional reactions. On one hand, many traumatic reactions result from experiences of terror and loss of control. The opposite can also occur: victims blame themselves and assume responsibility for the injuries.  Common symptoms of anxiety include worrying, being very active, feeling irritable, unable to relax or sleep properly, having no energy, finding it difficult to concentrate, feeling upset, angry, confused, tired, helpless or ‘out-of-control’.

Anxiety can make a person feel unsociable and you may have unwanted thoughts or experience problems with personal relationships. Drivers exposed to crashes may also suffer from persistent anxiety and increased physical tension. These can be serious problems for professional drivers, as they may have difficulty falling or staying asleep and getting adequate rest. They may show chronic feelings of irritability and become easily agitated, angry or resentful. Coupled with difficulties in concentration, such tension could be dangerous in congested driving conditions if the driver, normally safe and professional, is overcome with frustration and anger and takes risks. The anger and irritability could further express itself in a deteriorating relationship between driver and supervisor.

In most cases, involvement in crashes may cause personal distress and impede job performance for up to a month. However, experts agree that:

  • Emotional recovery is an important part of healing after a road accident.
  • Symptoms after traumatic accidents can include emotional and cognitive difficulties alongside the physical damage.

Emotionally, accident victims can have feelings of:

  • Shock, denial and disbelief
  • Anger, irritability and extreme agitation
  • Guilt at having survived when someone else did not, leading to further feelings of shame or even self-blame
  • Sadness or extreme hopelessness
  • Deep and persistent anxiety, worries and fear
  • Social withdrawal which leads to isolation
  • Feelings of emotional numbness one moment, with extreme mood swings the next

As well as the obvious difficulties these symptoms present in a victim’s daily life, they can also drastically affect their ability to work, or to communicate with friends, family and loved ones. At a cognitive level, people trying to recover emotionally after a serious vehicle  accident can also experience:

  • Confusion, difficulty in concentrating on even minor tasks, or forgetfulness
  • Terrifying flashbacks or intrusive memories

Between the emotional and cognitive difficulties, the physical ramifications of these psychological problems can include:

  • Insomnia or terrifying nightmares
  • Suddenly elevated, racing heartbeat
  • Extreme fatigue or unusually low energy levels
  • Muscle tension, aches and pains not directly related to the injuries received in the accident itself
  • Blinding headaches or severe stomach disorders
  • Spells of uncontrollable crying
  • Becoming overly vigilant and being very easily startled or frightened

Treatment comes in many aspects of your new safety plan to drive again: Patients can achieve some control over their symptoms by sharing details of the accident in the safety of the examination room. The family physician may be the first professional to hear a comprehensive account of the events. Patients should be reassured that PTSD is a reaction to the stress of trauma, that it follows a predictable course and that it often resolves with timely intervention.

Emotions to expect after a crash

Shock, denial, or disbelief

Immediately after a car accident, and for several days afterwards, people usually experience being in shock. Shock can feel different for everyone, but common symptoms include feeling numb, being in emotional distress, continuing to feel afraid even though the event is over, or having unpredictable mood swings.

You can also experience shock after an accident even if you weren’t driving the vehicle  at the time, if you were a passenger, a pedestrian walking past, or even an observer in another vehicle  nearby.

Anger, irritability, agitation

After an accident, the driver can feel angry at the driver of the other vehicle , whether they were at fault or not. Many passengers can also feel angry at both the drivers involved in the accident.

It’s easy to take this anger out on everyone around you when these irritated, agitated feelings continue. The feelings are a valid part of your stress reaction, and it’s good to know you don’t have to act on them.

A helpful way to deal with feelings of anger is learning some simple relaxation breathing exercises that can help you calm down when these feelings arise.

If you’re a parent trying to help your teenage child who was involved in a vehicle  crash, they may not want your support and may seem angry at family members. Allow them to turn to their friends instead for a short time, but keep the lines of communication open so they can still talk with you when they’re ready.

Guilt, shame, self-blame

Many drivers beat themselves up over the accident, especially if they think it was avoidable.

Sometimes even those who witness a crash can blame themselves for not being able to prevent the crash or provide first-aid, or other ideas they may have about what they “could have done”. It’s helpful to remind yourself that these expectations of yourself are not realistic.

Anxiety, worry, fear

Anxiety is a natural reaction to a stressful incident such as a vehicle  accident. Some people experience no symptoms of anxiety at all after a crash, and most people who do experience anxiety will recover in time.

Common symptoms include:

  • Worrying
  • Unable to relax or sleep properly
  • Finding it difficult to concentrate
  • Feeling unsociable, not wanting to talk
  • Feeling upset, confused, out of control, or helpless
  • Feeling irritable
  • Having no energy
  • Keeping busy to avoid thinking
  • Unwanted thoughts

One of the easiest ways to fight anxiety is to talk about it. If you can, it’s helpful to talk about the accident and your feelings with the people you trust. Family, friends, and a qualified counsellor or psychologist can really help.

Returning to your normal routine is also a great anxiety-buster. But give yourself time, and be patient with what you are feeling.

First of all you are alive and seeking courage in a bottle will only drive you further down the rabbit hole in life. Look after your mental health following an accident:

·        Give yourself time. Any difficult period in your life needs time to heal. Be patient with yourself and what you are feeling. Anxiety is normal for everyone.

·        Talk to someone about the accident. It may be a friend, family member or someone you feel comfortable with. Just talking about your experiences, getting information about anxiety and meeting any practical needs is often all that is required to help you manage your anxiety.

·        Look after yourself. When people feel anxious they often neglect themselves. Eat balanced meals and try to get plenty of sleep. Do some exercise, like going for a walk. Avoid increasing the amount of alcohol you drink and avoid drugs that have not been prescribed by your doctor.

·        Take some time for yourself and do a hobby or other enjoyable activity.

Before you turn a wheel, and put the vehicle in drive!

·        Exposure therapy appears to be effective in reducing the re-experiencing symptoms and travel phobias

·        Relaxation therapy may be especially useful for managing hypervigilance

·        Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy has also been shown to reduce PTSD symptoms

Educating patients about the traumatic effects of a motor vehicle accident begins with discussing PTSD symptoms and their prevalence among accident survivors. This normalizes the patient’s experience and may reduce any reluctance to disclose symptoms. Because some symptoms are delayed, highlighting symptoms during the examination may prevent the patient from overreacting later if the symptoms do occur. Reviewing symptoms also helps patients overcome the belief that PTSD is only associated with veterans of combat or the Vietnam war. Physicians are cautioned, however, to avoid symptom reviews with patients who are highly suggestible, have a history of somatization or are known to have initiated personal injury litigation.

Since PTSD involves anxiety responses, the family physician can teach relaxation techniques that the patient can practice at home. Moderate physical exercise or activity can also relieve hyperarousal symptoms and should be recommended in a manner consistent with the patient’s injuries.

Yes this really does help and it works! Recover From Anxiety After a Vehicle  Accident

1.  Psychotherapy — Therapy is often the best way for many people to get over trauma-related anxiety. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is particularly effective. Look for a qualified CBT therapist in your area.

2.  Hypnotherapy — Hypnosis and/or guided meditation can often resolve traumatic emotions in as little as three sessions.

3.  Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) — If you’ve never heard of EMDR, it’s a type of psychotherapy that incorporates stimulating the left and right hemispheres of the brain via movement of the eyes. I’ve done some of this work with my therapist and it is AMAZINGLY effective for decreasing anxiety after a vehicle  accident. I highly recommend it, although you should only do EMDR with the help of a qualified professional.

4.   Emotional Freedom Technique (Tapping) — Another type of therapy designed to quickly resolve painful emotions, tapping for anxiety is related to therapies like acupuncture. Note: Tapping does NOT involve needles.

5.  Self care / self love — Practicing good self care, particularly after a traumatic event, is a very important part of recovery. Be gentle with yourself and focus on caring for yourself via good diet, exercise, recreation and spending quality time with friends and family. Your own self love is one of the most powerful healing forces there is.

6.  Medication — Sometimes medication is a useful tool for reducing the impact of traumatic anxiety. Although I don’t believe it’s the best choice, I recognize that everyone’s needs are different and that medication is an appropriate choice for some people. You should only use anxiety medication under the care of a doctor or another qualified health care provider.

7.  Defensive driving course — Some people overcome driving-related PTSD by learning defensive driving skills. This often gives people a more powerful sense of control and of taking charge of the environment behind the wheel. I think learning better driving skills is a GREAT choice under any circumstances, even if it’s not in response to the aftermath of an accident.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.