Mental health is part of your overall health. Experiencing a motor vehicle accident (MVA) can be a traumatic event that may lead to mental and emotional distress for those involved. Mental trauma after an MVA can manifest in various ways, affecting individuals differently based on their personality, coping mechanisms, and the severity of the accident.
When you experience a traumatic event such as a car accident, it is common to have an emotional reaction. Emotional injuries are often overshadowed by physical injuries but can be just as long lasting and debilitating. Mental health matters, and it is important you understand the response you’re experiencing to begin the process of healing. Some common mental health issues that may arise after an MVA include:
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): This is a prevalent mental health condition that can develop after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares, intrusive thoughts, hypervigilance, and avoiding situations that remind the person of the accident.
Anxiety and Panic Disorders: Individuals may develop anxiety or panic attacks, often triggered by memories of the accident, driving, or being in vehicles.
Depression: Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed can occur after an MVA.
Survivor’s Guilt: People involved in an accident that resulted in injuries or fatalities to others may experience guilt or a sense of responsibility for the outcome.
Phobias and Avoidance Behaviors: Some individuals may develop specific phobias related to driving or being in a vehicle, leading to avoidance of driving altogether.
Sleep Disturbances: Insomnia, nightmares, or disrupted sleep patterns are common, impacting overall well-being.
Anger and Irritability: Individuals may experience heightened irritability, mood swings, or uncharacteristic anger following the accident.
Cognitive Difficulties: Concentration problems, memory issues, and difficulty making decisions may arise due to the mental and emotional toll of the accident.
Trauma is your body’s natural response to a distressing event that overwhelms one’s ability to cope. There are three types of trauma:
- Acute Trauma – resulting from one incident;
- Chronic Trauma – traumatic events prolonged and repeated over an extended period;
- Complex Trauma – exposure to multiple, varied traumatic events.
Experiencing lasting trauma can have negative impacts on a person’s sense of safety and comfort, one’s ability to regulate emotions, and can trigger downfalls of self-worth.
Common Reactions to Trauma:
Physical responses to trauma can include exhaustion, dissociation, confusion, irritation, numbness, etc. The most common reaction of trauma is always feeling “on guard” and never being able to stop thinking about the event. This in turn often causes nightmares and anxiety dreams. The content of these dreams usually incorporates similar feelings and sensations to those experienced during the traumatic event. Other common reactions are feeling distant from friends and family, being unable to concentrate or make decisions easily, and getting startled easily.
Tips for Taking Care of Your Mental Health:
- Don’t Isolate Yourself: An important part of your recovery is opening lines of communication between yourself and friends and family. Having the necessary support through this difficult time in your life is crucial to feeling supported and heard.
- Talk: If finding that the feelings surrounding your traumatic event is interfering with your regular life, seek professional help with a mental health expert. Talking about your feelings with a trained professional can help you work through coping mechanisms and strategies specific to your personal recovery.
- Get Into a Healthy Routine: Getting into a healthy routine is a fantastic goal for someone who’s life may have been interrupted by a traumatic event. A sense of normalcy can help you regain a sense of control over your life.
- Stay Away from Triggering Substances: Using drugs and alcohol to take the edge off your feelings after a traumatic event may feel like it’s working in the short term, but it can also do damage in the long run. Work to find relief elsewhere, as dependence on drugs and alcohol can lead to further mental and physical problems.
- Listen to Your Body: Listen to your body and its needs. Your body needs healthy, regular meals, a regular sleep schedule, enjoyable hobbies, and exercise. The beginning may seem tough, but once you start fueling your body in a healthy way, your mind can begin to heal.
In the midst of life’s challenges, it’s essential to recognize that we all face moments of vulnerability. If you find you or a loved one experiencing overwhelming emotions or the weight of a mental breakdown, know that you are not alone. If you feel that you need help, please reach out to friends or family or call:
- Chimo Helpline: 1-800-667-5005
Prince Edward Island (PEI):
- Island Helpline: 1-833-553-6983
If the situation is immediate and life-threatening, do not hesitate to call 911. Emergency services can provide immediate assistance.
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