How to Mentally Recover from a Car Accident

Jan 31, 2022

Millions of car accidents occur in the United States each year. If you have been in a traffic accident, then you might experience a wide range of feelings, including shock, stress, anxiety, and worry. You might feel one way after the accident and start to notice other signs of mental trauma after a car accident as the days go by. You might find yourself going over what happened and wondering how it could have gone differently. Whether or not you suffer any physical car accident injuries, a car accident can affect you mentally and emotionally as well. Here’s what you need to know about trauma after a car accident and the steps you can take to ease your distress while you recover.

Signs of Mental Distress After a Car Accident

Car accident trauma can affect you physically, mentally, and emotionally. In fact, mental trauma after a car accident can start to impact you physically. Here are signs that you may be experiencing mental distress after a car accident.

Trouble Sleeping

It is common to have difficulty sleeping after a car accident. Trouble sleeping can be a sign of stress, and chemicals in the body like adrenaline can actually keep you awake at night after an overstimulating incident like a car accident. You might feel tense and find it difficult to relax because you are ‘on guard’ for any signs of potential danger. Car accident trauma can trigger a response in your brain and body that can trigger insomnia.

Nervousness About Driving Again

Some drivers find themselves nervous about driving again after a car accident. The next time you are behind the wheel after you’ve been in a car accident, you might experience sweaty palms, tense shoulders, and worry or anxiety. This is a completely understandable response after you have been in a traumatic experience like a car accident.

Replaying What Happened

When you’ve been in a stressful situation like a car accident, it is normal to replay what happened in your mind. You might wonder what you could have done differently or if you could have avoided the accident altogether if you had just taken a different route. When you start to think about all the “what-if” scenarios, it can actually increase your anxiety after a car accident. Replaying what happened over and over in your head can trigger a fight or flight response in your body and keep you on high alert.

Guilt Over the Accident

Whether or not the car accident was your fault, you may still experience guilt over the accident. If you or passengers sustain any car accident injuries, then you might feel guilty. Many drivers also express feeling sorry for the other driver, especially if their vehicle suffered more damage than yours did. While you know it was an accident, you may still feel guilt over the accident and any damage it has caused.

Anxiety and Depression

It is also possible to develop mental health conditions like anxiety or depression after a car accident. If you find yourself worrying all the time, not just about the car accident but about every little event throughout your day, then you might be dealing with anxiety. Extreme fatigue and wanting to sleep instead of spending time with loved ones can be a sign of depression. If you experience a loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy and an inability to concentrate, you might be struggling with anxiety and depression after a car accident.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

You might not consider post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, but it can actually impact your mental health after a car accident. You might be dealing with PTSD if you have intense and repetitive flashbacks of the accident. These flashbacks or memories can trigger fear and other responses in the body, leading to irritability and difficulty sleeping. If you are unable to get behind the wheel again after a car accident and aren’t comfortable riding in a vehicle, then you might be experiencing PTSD from your car accident.

Supporting Your Mental Health After a Car Accident

When it comes to recovering after a car accident, it is important to support your mental health as well. Car accident injuries can put stress and strain on your body physically, but you can also experience the emotional stress and strain of an accident. You will feel better mentally when you feel better overall, so it helps to focus on your recovery both mentally and physically.

Focus on Your Immediate Needs

In the immediate aftermath of a car accident, you might forget about the small but important things like eating a well-balanced meal and staying hydrated. You might be dealing with pain or other symptoms of car accident injuries, which might distract you from meeting your immediate needs. Keeping your body fueled and hydrated will support your overall goals of healing and recovery.

Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Getting plenty of sleep might seem easier said than done, but you can talk to your car accident doctor about ways to ease your pain and discomfort from any injuries. If stress or repeating memories are keeping you from a good night’s sleep, then your doctor may also talk to you about strategies to help you relax before you go to sleep.

Practice Calming Techniques

Calming techniques and relaxing exercises can help relieve your stress, manage your anxiety, and even get a better night’s sleep. Deep breathing exercises can help you relax and increase the flow of oxygen to your brain. Taking deep breaths and practicing breathing techniques can stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system, helping to promote a sense of calmness. When you focus on the physical act of deep breaths, it can help take your mind off of your worries and help you feel more connected to your body.

Embrace the Time You Need to Heal

There isn’t a standard time frame for how long it may take you to recover from mental trauma after a car accident. Let go of expectations you may have for yourself about how you should or shouldn’t be feeling after a car accident and allow yourself the time you need. Avoiding feelings of distress or discomfort after a car accident can actually make your stress and anxiety worse and make your recovery time longer, just like ignoring pain and other symptoms can actually make your injuries worse. Instead, focus on the healing process and remember that your recovery is unique to you.

Find a New and Improved Routine

If you find yourself anxious or stressed about particularly busy roads or high volumes of traffic, then you may want to consider other routes to take until you get comfortable behind the wheel again. Start by taking a few trips to the corner store and back before you start driving again for longer periods of time and on busier roads. This can help you ease back into feeling comfortable driving again.

Practice Defensive Driving

Whether you take a course in defensive driving or pick up a few techniques from reading articles online, you can learn a lot about how to become a safer driver. Defensive driving helps drivers gain confidence in how to proactively anticipate hazards on the road and improve your reactions to a variety of common issues you will experience on the road. Practicing defensive driving may give you a stronger sense of control and always wearing your seat belt can lower your risk of future accidents or injuries.

Talk to a Professional

It can also help to talk to a professional after you’ve experienced trauma or PTSD after a car accident. Licensed mental health counselors can help you identify coping strategies for better managing anxiety, depression, or PTSD after a car accident. You might also find that talking to a professional helps reduce your high levels of stress so that you can feel less tense and more comfortable in the driver’s seat.

Car Accident Trauma and The Road to Recovery

When you are dealing with the aftermath of a car accident, it can help to have a better understanding of your next steps so that you know more about what to expect.

Immediately After the Accident

Many people don’t actually realize they are injured after a car accident. The stress of the accident can send adrenaline coursing through your body that helps you stay alert, but it can also mask pain and other symptoms. Immediately after the accident, it helps to take a calming breath and take in your surroundings. Are you feeling pain or notice any obvious injuries? Are you in a safe place or can you safely move your vehicle to the shoulder and out of oncoming traffic? Taking a minute to assess the situation can help you make calm and confident decisions while your body manages the stress of the accident.

Assessment for Car Accident Injuries

Because symptoms of car accident injuries don’t always appear right away, it is important to get assessed for any injuries. If paramedics attend to the scene, you should never turn away their assistance. Allow them to assess you for any obvious signs of injury and provide any first aid necessary. If you go to the emergency room or urgent care after an accident, you will still need to follow up with a car accident doctor for continued treatment of your injuries. Car accident doctors are highly knowledgeable and skilled in diagnosing and treating a wide range of car accident injuries.

Personalized Plan of Treatment

Your car accident doctor will develop a personalized plan of treatment to address your specific symptoms. It is helpful to talk to your doctor about any mental trauma you may be experiencing as well. Stress and anxiety can lead to physical responses in the body, like tight, tense shoulders and neck, which may exacerbate your pain and other symptoms. Your car accident doctor can also talk to you about how your injuries are impacting you and recommend gentle stretches or exercises to help you cope. Car accident doctors provide comprehensive care and develop an individualized treatment plan to help you experience lasting relief from your injury symptoms as well as your mental distress after a traumatic event like a car accident.

Non-Invasive Treatment Techniques for Car Accident Trauma

At AICA Orthopedics, our team of car accident doctors always starts with the most minimally invasive treatment options so that you can recover as quickly as possible. We offer a wide range of non-invasive treatment techniques to help with car accident trauma.

Chiropractic Care

Chiropractic care is a non-invasive and all-natural approach to treating car accident injuries. Our car accident chiropractors can help manage your pain and discomfort after an accident. Chiropractors use gentle and safe therapeutic techniques called chiropractic adjustments that help resolve misalignments in the spine. They may also utilize techniques like therapeutic massage to help promote healing in sore, damaged tissues. Your car accident chiropractor will use a mind and body approach to address your injuries along with your mental health after a traumatic event.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy can help you recover from a car accident by promoting strength, flexibility, and range of motion. You can work with a physical therapist after a car accident to strengthen sore or damaged muscles and help provide greater stability to weakened or injured parts of the body. A physical therapist will also walk you through stretches and exercises that will help you get moving again. Fitness and other activities can help take your mind off of your worries and also help improve your mental health with encouragement and emotional support.

AICA Orthopedics has a team of car accident doctors near you to help you physically and mentally recover from a car accident. At Snellville AICA Orthopedics, our car accident chiropractors and physical therapists work alongside orthopedic doctors, neurologists, and surgeons, so you receive comprehensive care for your car accident injuries. We also offer in-house diagnostic imaging like X-rays and CT scans so you can get all the care you need in one convenient location.