PTSD and Vehicle Collisions

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June is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Month.  Most people don’t associate PTSD with vehicle collisions, but it is something that I see all the time. Todd Buckley, PhD, on the website U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs, says that researchers are looking more closely at motor vehicle accidents (MVAs) as a common cause of traumatic stress. In one large study, accidents were shown to be the traumatic event most frequently experienced by males (25%) and the second most frequent traumatic event experienced by females (13%) in the United States. Over 100 billion dollars are spent every year to take care of the damage caused by auto accidents. Survivors of MVAs often also experience emotional distress as a result of such accidents. Mental health difficulties such as posttraumatic stress, depression, and anxiety are problems survivors of severe MVAs may exhibit.

How many people experience serious motor vehicle accidents?

One unfortunate consequence of the high volume of commuter and personal travel in the US is the number of accidents that result in personal injury and fatalities. In any given year, approximately 1% of the US population will be injured in motor vehicle accidents. Thus, MVAs account for over three million injuries annually and are one of the most common traumas individuals experience.

How many people develop MVA-related PTSD and other psychological reactions?

Studies of the general population have found that approximately 9% of MVA survivors develop PTSD. Rates are significantly higher in samples of MVA survivors who seek mental-health treatment. Studies show that between 14% and 100% of MVA survivors who seek mental-health treatment have PTSD, with an average of 60% across studies. In addition, between 3% and 53% of MVA survivors who seek treatment and have PTSD also have a mood disorder such as Major Depression. Finally, in one large study of MVA survivors who sought treatment, 27% had an anxiety disorder in addition to their PTSD, and 15% reported a phobia of driving.

When do you seek help?

You should seek medical advice if your symptoms:

Are worrying you.

Are preventing you from doing your normal activities.

Have lasted longer than three months after the accident.

Are causing your friends and/or relatives to be worried about you.

If your symptoms don’t ease after 3 months, or if your symptoms are severe enough to stop you living your normal life, then you have may an anxiety disorder, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

I hope this will help those of you out there who are suffering after a collision.  Please remember that we are always available to listen to you should you feel the need.