Auto accidents have many well-known physical consequences, from broken bones to traumatic brain injuries. What many people don't realize is that car and truck accidents can also take a serious toll on your emotional health. In some cases, victims are plagued with grief after surviving an accident that killed a friend or family member. Emotional distress also occurs in people who struggle to cope with their physical injuries. Auto accidents can even trigger post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a condition that develops in some people who have been through a shocking or traumatic event. If you were involved in an auto accident, these four risk factors could increase the likelihood of developing PTSD afterward.
1. Life-Threatening Injuries
An auto accident can be life-changing, especially if you sustain life-threatening injuries. Some accident survivors must cope with serious physical challenges such as paralysis, memory loss, difficulty walking, and chronic pain. Coping with these challenges is emotionally draining, especially without a strong support system in place. As a result, people who sustain life-threatening injuries are more likely to develop PTSD than people who sustain minor injuries.
2. History of Trauma
Repeated exposure to trauma increases the risk that a traumatic event will overwhelm a person's ability to cope, making a history of trauma one of the key risk factors for PTSD. People with a history of child abuse, sexual abuse, family instability, or even poverty may have a higher risk of developing PTSD after an auto accident, especially if they have a previous psychological disorder or a history of drug and alcohol abuse.
3. Survivor Guilt
Some accident victims develop survivor's guilt after surviving an accident that took the life of a loved one. Some survivors blame themselves for the other person's death, while others feel it is unfair that they have to go on living without their loved ones. Many people with survivor's guilt question why they are still alive, wonder whether they could have prevented the death, or worry that their loved one suffered during the accident.
4. Lack of Support
Recovering from an auto accident requires extensive support, especially for people who sustained life-threatening injuries. While hospitalized, an accident victim cannot earn a living. With no income coming in, it may be difficult to pay accident-related medical bills or cover ordinary expenses such as rent and utilities. Recovering from life-threatening injuries is also emotionally challenging, as accident victims may have to come to terms with the fact that they can no longer do some of the same activities they did before. Without a strong support network, the challenges of recovering from a serious accident may overwhelm a person's ability to cope, increasing the risk for PTSD.
If you were involved in an auto accident caused by someone else, you should not have to bear the costs of your recovery on your own. Post-accident counseling can reduce the risk of PTSD, and if PTSD develops, medication and therapy can be used to alleviate the symptoms. Contact an experienced personal injury attorney to preserve your legal rights and make sure that your treatment costs are covered.