When a car accident occurs, the parties involved will focus on dealing with physical injuries and vehicle damage. But if you’ve ever been in a moderate to serious car accident, then you know the memory of the incident can linger for a while. Many drivers will keep off the wheel for weeks, months, or years thereafter.
While it’s vital that you take care of physical healing, tackling the psychological issues is equally important. Emotional trauma is expected after a major crash. That doesn’t mean you cannot do anything about it. As you report the accident, you can take actions that will determine if and how soon you heal. Here are four tips to help you deal with post-accident psychological scars.
Emotions aren’t tangible, so it’s easy to cover up your psychological struggles in the hope that they’ll eventually go away. This denial is a catastrophic mistake that only makes it harder for you to truly recover.
So the first step to healing is recognizing your post-traumatic emotions exist and that they aren’t unusual. Anger, shock, anxiety, and regret are common feelings that accompany an accident. In fact, you should be surprised if you aren’t grappling with these emotions hours, days, and weeks after the crash.
Writing down what you feel is a major step toward your well-being. Documenting the event, as well as your emotions thereafter, can make those scars more tangible and thus, actionable. You cannot really recover if you cannot see an accurate record of what it is you are suffering from.
Make use of your journal to write down what you feel and how this is affecting your ability to function normally. Maintain a detailed record of doctor appointments and any treatments you’ve been prescribed.
Wishing that your psychological wounds would disappear on their own is unlikely to work. Time may be a healer, but you don’t want to leave your emotional hurt to chance. Unlike physical injury, psychological wounds are not only a threat to you, but they can make you a danger to the people around you. That includes family, friends, work colleagues, and neighbors.
Make an appointment to see a therapist who’ll help you work through the hurt in a safe, controlled, and open environment. Therapists have the requisite training to carefully guide patients through their trauma. They help you identify the causes and symptoms while leading you in the direction of long-term healing.
You’ve probably encountered the philosophy advocating quickly getting back to the same activity and environment where a life-threatening incident happened to you. It’s meant to be a triumph over one’s fears. This is an ill-advised strategy of dealing with emotional trauma, especially when it comes to car accidents.
You are better off adopting a more gradual approach. Ease back into the driving seat. Begin with quiet, low-traffic roads, such as those in your residential neighborhood. You can then progress to city streets with low to moderate traffic. Only once you feel comfortable enough should you proceed to exploring busy intersections and highways again.
Getting back on the road before you have truly healed could endanger both you and other motorists. Avoid, as much and as long as you can, the accident scene until you feel ready. Going back to it too early could very well bring those negative emotions flooding back.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is often associated with American troops returning from tours of duty in war-ravaged parts of the world. If not addressed quickly and comprehensively, PTSD can and has driven many veterans into destroying themselves and the people they love. While not anywhere near the same level of trauma as war, the psychological impact of a major car accident can degrade a victim’s quality of life if not dealt with accordingly.