PTSD After a Car Accident

We all know that car accidents can lead to broken bones, cuts, and bruises. We’ve either experienced the physical injuries ourselves or we’ve known someone who has gone through it. But many people don’t consider the psychological harm that can occur from being in a traumatic event. It’s common for people who are involved in car accidents to mentally suffer in the months to follow.


Unexpected traumatic events can affect a person greatly and lead to depression. For instance, when a person’s in a sudden car accident, they may be hurt and witness their friends and family hurt. Imagine seeing your spouse or child unconscious and bleeding – even if you’re physically OK, you suffer a psychological harm.

Other individuals suffer numerous physical injuries in a car accident that change their lives. Those who are permanently physically changed or have a long recovery period are unable to participate in their normal social activities. Such a drastic and sudden change would emotionally affect anyone, no matter how strong or optimistic.

Following the accident, you may suffer from reactive depression, which is a mild to moderate form of depression that arises due to a stressful event. Signs of depression include:

  • experiencing emotional numbness, as if you’re unable to experience feelings,
  • feeling extremely sad and crying,
  • shifting between emotions such as disbelief, denial, and guilt,
  • being unable to concentrate,
  • social withdrawal,
  • changes in appetite,
  • changes in sleep habits,
  • increased use of drugs or alcohol, and
  • reoccurring memories or bad dreams about the car accident.

If the symptoms last more than a few weeks or interfere with your ability to function, you may require psychological evaluation and treatment.

If you have suicidal thoughts, these are a sign of more severe depression. You should seek help immediately.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is open all day and night at 1-800-273-8255, or you can chat online.


After experiencing a collision, it’s not uncommon for someone to feel nervous about getting back into a car, as a driver or passenger. But sometimes the fear and nerves become something greater – they become anxiety. Everyone feels anxious now and again, but anxiety is a mental disorder that can make it impossible for someone to life a happy, healthy life without treatment.

Signs of anxiety include:

  • Feeling weak
  • Feeling nervous or tense
  • Shaking
  • Sweating
  • Hyperventilating
  • Increased heart rate
  • Sense of impending danger
  • An inability to control feelings of worry
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Gastrointestinal issues

More severe anxiety can lead to panic attacks, which are sudden feelings of anxiety and terror that can include chest pain, shortness of breath, and heart palpitations.

Many people suffering from anxiety attempt to avoid triggers of these feelings, which may include avoiding driving or riding in a car with others. However, this avoidance isn’t healthy and can make it difficult for someone to live a productive life.

If these feelings last for more than a couple of months, it’s crucial for individuals to seek help. Long-lasting anxiety may be a symptom of Post-traumatic stress disorder.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

PTSD isn’t necessary what they show in the movies. It’s a mental condition that’s triggered by a traumatic event and symptoms can include severe anxiety, avoidance, uncontrollable thoughts, intrusive memories, negative changes in mood, and changes in emotional reactions. The intrusive memories can include reoccurring thoughts about the car accident and reliving the event – that’s why Hollywood focuses on flashbacks so much.

Avoidance can include avoiding activities, places, and people that remind the individual of the collision. This can be difficult when people who remind someone of the event are close family and friends. Changes in thinking and mood can resemble depression. Changes in emotional reaction can cause someone to be irritable, aggressive, on guard, self-destructive, and easily startled.

Symptoms of PTSD may not begin until months after the accident, and can last for months or years.

It’s important to note that individuals can have memories of the car accident or have a hard time coping after the collision without having PTSD. Many people will face a tough period following a traumatic event, possibly experiencing depression or anxiety, but will improve with self-care.

There are numerous ways to treat PTSD, including behavioral therapy and medications. If a victim of a car accident believes they may be suffering from the disorder, they should seek help right away.

Psychological Harm Not Linked to Severity of Physical Injuries

Many people think that only those who suffer severe injuries in a car accident end up with long-lasting psychological effects, but this isn’t true. Whether someone was a passenger, driver or witness, or had minor or major injuries, there’s the possibility of long-term emotional and mental suffering.

It’s important that people don’t down play the possibility of someone’s mental anguish because they weren’t physical hurt or suffered only moderate injuries during a car accident. Severe physical injuries are not necessary in order to suffer from depression, anxiety, or PTSD following a traumatic event.

Contact a Chicago Car Accidents Attorney

If you were hurt by a car accident and are suffering psychological effects, speak with an attorney about how you can recover from the other party for pain and suffering. Call Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C. at (312) 236-2900.