Car Accident PTSD Counselling

The aftermath of a car accident can result in post-traumatic stress disorder and/or may have an impact on pain, the ability to work, pain and adjustment difficulties. Psychological treatment can be effective in dealing with these psychological difficulties and may result in getting back to a normal lifestyle.

Symptoms of PTSD arising from a motor vehicle accident

After a traumatic event such as an accident, the body’s natural fight or flight response is triggered. Sometimes this reaction can “short circuit” your brain chemistry and cause Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which is a chronic sensitivity to stress and the threat of danger.

Every PTSD sufferer has different experiences, but in general, PTSD following a car crash can show in any of, or combination of, these symptoms:

  • Anxiety and panic attacks – particularly (but not limited to) when trying to drive or be a passenger again after the accident. This can include a tight chest, difficulty breathing, shaking hands and sweating
  • Anxiety can also display as an over-vigilance when driving – driving well under the speed-limit and breaking suddenly at any small or imagined sign of danger. As a passenger you may also constantly try to slam your foot down at the front of the car as if reaching for the break
  • Avoiding driving or getting back in a car – either opting to take the bus or asking friends for lifts, or total avoidance of motor vehicle travel – either opting to walk or not leave the house at all
  • Anger – particularly if the crash was not your fault and if you or a loved-one was seriously hurt
  • Guilt
  • Depression – either feeling constantly down or having a strange feeling of numbness
  • Flashbacks and/or nightmares
  • Constantly thinking back on the accident and replaying it in your mind – thinking about how it could have been avoided, or ruminating on ‘what if’ scenarios where the car hit at a slightly different spot or speed and you or another passenger were more (or less) seriously injured
  • It can even include some physical symptoms like muscle pain, diarrhoea and headaches.

You might feel weak and silly for not being able to “get over” the accident, especially if you were not significantly physically hurt in the accident. But the brain’s response to trauma is complex and sometimes it’s not easy to forget the experience and move on.

Although PTSD is part of a normal reaction to a near-death experience, some people find it difficult to get over this acute stress reaction and just cannot come to terms with what has happened. It feels as if your brain is stuck on “danger mode” and you are constantly vigilant and reliving the events of the accident.

How Counselling Can Help Car Accident PTSD?

The good news is that counselling can help you to find coping mechanisms to manage these feelings. A skilled and qualified counsellor or clinical psychologist can work with you to process the thoughts and emotions surrounding your traumatic crash experience.

They will offer you ways to deal with your stress response so that you can think about what happened without becoming distressed. With patience and understanding, a counsellor can help guide you towards not feeling constantly under threat – so that you can go back to living your life as normally as possible.

Book an appointment

We treat patients from all over Perth at our Clinical Psychology clinics in Dianella and Warwick. To make an appointment simply give us a call or fill out the contact form on our contact page with your details and we’ll call you to confirm.

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