After a serious accident, the physical injuries are just one part of the aftermath.
You may have sustained only minor injuries, or you may have fully recovered from serious ones. You may have witnessed the fatal accident of your loved one or you may be struggling to help someone you know who is suffering after an accident. Whatever the circumstance, returning to normality following a serious accident can be difficult when stress and trauma take hold.
This #StressAwarenessMonth, we wanted to shed light on post-traumatic stress disorder and how many people can experience symptoms of it following a serious accident. We outline how to recognise the signs of PTSD and what you can do to get help, or help someone else, during this difficult time.
What is post-traumatic stress disorder?
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is a disorder than can occur after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. Some cases begin severe, while others may not appear until several months or even years later, gradually.
Some individuals that experience high levels of trauma such as road traffic or horse riding accidents will return to normal given a little time. However, some people will have stress reactions that do not go away on their own, or may even get worse over time. This could be PTSD.
PTSD UK – a charity that raises awareness of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in the UK, states that PTSD is not a mental illness, it is a psychological injury. When you look at it this way, you can begin to understand how PTSD can be a product of serious accidents in the same way that physical injuries are.
According to PTSD UK:
1 in 2 people experience trauma at some point in their life and around 20% of those people can go on to develop post traumatic stress disorder. (1)
It has also been recorded that around 10% of people suffer post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after a car accident. (2)
Signs & symptoms
According to National Institute for Health & Care Excellence (NICE), the most common symptom of PTSD is involuntarily re-experiencing aspects of the traumatic event in a very vivid and distressing way. This could be via thoughts, memories, images, dreams or flashbacks; where you develop feelings of anxiety and increased heart rate when you’re faced with reminders of the event. There are also other symptoms to look out for, such as:
- Avoidance of said thoughts, conversations, places, people, activities or anything which may trigger those memories of trauma, such as driving on certain roads.
- Feeling emotionally numb or detached from others. You may find it difficult to have loving feelings or close relationships while you are suffering with PTSD.
- Your outlook for the future is often pessimistic. You may lose interest in activities which you used to enjoy and you find it difficult to plan for the future.
- Difficulty in sleeping.
- Feeling irritable, which may include outbursts of anger.
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Increased vigilance & being more startled than you were prior to the event. A feeling of being ‘jumpy’ almost as you scan your environment for potential threats.
What can I do if I have symptoms of PTSD after a serious accident?
According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCPSYCH), there are a number of things that you can do if you are suffering from symptoms of PTSD – whether you have been diagnosed or not:
Give yourself time
It takes time – weeks, months or maybe even years – to accept an accident that has happened and to learn to continue and possibly adapt your life to its aftermath. You may need to grieve for what (or who) you have lost, and that’s okay. Be patient with yourself.
Join a support programme or group
Talking to people that understand your experience can make the world of difference. They can help to reassure you, give advice and be there as an unbiased party that holds no emotional ties to you or your situation.
If you are struggling with the aftermath of a road traffic accident or a losing a loved one as a result, the national charity for road crash victims in the UK, RoadPeace, offer a wide range of services to help, including a Befriender service where people can call others that been through a similar experience to themselves, a Resilience Building Support Programme for families bereaved by road deaths and organise local group meetings to offer mutual support. You can take a look at the services they can offer here.
Ask loved ones for support
When you feel strong enough, you may need to ask a close friend or members of your family for time to talk about what has happened and discuss what you might need from them to help. If you need to talk, don’t worry if you get emotional, it’s natural and usually helpful. Take things at a pace that you feel comfortable with.
Start developing a healthy routine
Try to have regular meals, eat a balanced diet, take some exercise and take some time every day for you. Begin to introduce daily ways to look after yourself, but start off gently.
Introduce normality, bit by bit
PTSD and the aftermath of trauma is exhausting, and you may miss experiencing the simple elements of life. Spend time with your loved ones without talking about the accident, watch television, go on a gentle walk, sit outside when the weather is nice and begin to remember what you used to find enjoyable.
If your symptoms are severe and last for a long period of time, seek professional help
According to the Some individuals will be able to recover from symptoms of PTSD with the help and support of family and friends and they may find their symptoms gradually reduce after about a month. However, you may need to see a professional if your feelings are severe and are impacting your daily life and health, or if they go on for too long.
If you decide to visit your GP, they might suggest that you talk with someone who specialises in helping people cope with traumas. They may offer a talking treatment, such as counselling or psychotherapy. For example, a talking treatment called cognitive behavioural therapy has been shown to be helpful.
In some cases, you may be prescribed certain medication to help with severe symptoms. (4)
What can I do to help someone with PTSD?
The Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCPSYCH) suggests that you can help support someone suffering with PTSD or trauma after a serious accident by doing simple things, such as:
For someone who is suffering after experiencing a serious accident, it can be helpful just to spend time with someone – whether that means talking about the experience or not. Let them know you are available and open to what they might need from you, and reassure them that there is no expectation for them to talk if they don’t feel ready.
When they are ready to talk, listen
Talking about serious accidents can be heartbreaking for the victim, and distressing for you to hear. But it’s important that feelings and worries are voiced rather than bottled up. Don’t pressure them – let them take things at their own pace. Usually, they will not expect you to say anything – just listen.
Offer practical help
After a serious accident, whether physical injuries have occurred or not, they may find it a struggle to look after themselves and keep to a daily routine. Offer some help, such as cleaning or preparing a meal for them, but be understanding if they seem reluctant to take you up on the offer. (4)
Can i make a compensation claim if I suffer with PTSD after an accident?
If you are suffering from PTSD following a serious accident, where the accident was not your fault, you may be able to make a claim.
PTSD claims can be cases in their own right, or may form part of another claim. With medical definitions of psychological injuries being extremely technical, it’s important that you recieve help from expert lawyers with specialised knowledge of these cases.
At Birchall Blackburn Law, our dedicated team have dealt with thousands of cases that involve clients and their families suffering from PTSD after accidents that were not their fault. By working alongside the country’s leading medical experts such as psychiatrists, psychologists, neuro-psychiatrists and treatment organisations, we achieve impressive results for our clients to help them get back on their feet with help they truly deserve.
If you are suffering from PTSD following a serious accident that was caused by another party, don’t hesitate to call our specialised team that are always hear to listen to your experience on 0800 614 722.
For more information on psychological claims, visit here. For information on claims relating to serious injuries, take a look here.