10 Car Accident Trauma Effects and Their Psychological Impacts


One of life’s most frightening experiences can feeling of out-of-control during a car accident. Besides worrying about your physical injuries after the car accident, this event can have lasting traumatic effects psychologically. It is very common to experience a number of effects post-accident attributed to the trauma one undergoes in such an event.

Even though you may not acknowledge it to yourself or may not think it to apply to you, if you’re noticing strange or odd symptoms or changes in behaviour after an accident, you may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Below are ten possible car accident trauma effects that you may be experiencing:

1. The likelihood of trauma

According to estimates, up to 9% of people who experience a car accident will develop trauma effects. If you have previously experienced mental health treatment or have mental health related issues, the likelihood of developing PTSD rises to 60%.

2. A body’s natural response to trauma

For some people, PTSD presents very directly and the effects can be obvious in the sense that it’s readily apparent someone is struggling. This isn’t always the case, however. Trauma can essentially act itself out in many ways, including some car accident trauma effects that you may not expect. It is common for car accident trauma effects to continue up to six months after an accident, possibly longer if one’s undiagnosed or untreated.

3. Avoidance behaviours

If you reacted to your accident or perceived it to be endangering your life, as most often do, avoidance behaviours may present afterwards. This can be something as simple as refusing to take the highway or not wanting to get in the car. Avoidance strengths a conscious and/or subconscious belief that driving is dangerous. This thought pattern then repeats and repeats, again and again.

4. Suppression of thoughts

For a lot of people, they don’t want to revisit or entertain the emotions that come with a car accident. The result is that healthy processing of information begins to be interfered with. Suddenly, you may find yourself without emotions altogether or having a different outlook on life. How we feel can be a tricky thing and after a car accident, suppressing emotions can have unhealthy consequences long-term.

5. Hyper-nervousness

You may find yourself reacting to situations that normally wouldn’t bother you with more nervousness and frustration. You may find your heart rate increases, respiration increases, and sweating occurs when faced with certain events. In response, you also may find it difficult to maintain a sense of calm.

Some of the more intense cases of hyper-nervousness, otherwise referred to as ‘hyper-arousal’, can include symptoms like chest pain and the presence of symptoms akin to fibromyalgia or similar trauma-related chronic pain conditions.

6. Anxiety

For a lot of people, car accident trauma effects will begin and end with anxiety. This is the most common reaction to car accident related trauma. When a person hears a horn honk, brakes screeching, or is reminded of the event, they may experience an increased heart rate and feelings of being overwhelmed.

These car accident trauma effects are based on a fear response and can sometimes result in a person’s mental systems always being on alert. You may find yourself more easily startled or even jumpy around cars and vehicles.

7. Ruminations about trauma

Rumination is a tendency to always focus on the negative. This is done not only in patterns of thinking but also with mood. Rumination is believed by psychologists to be an underlying mechanism that creates depression in individuals who have suffered a trauma.

In a sense, one relieves the same negative sentiments experienced during or around a trauma. Like other patterns, this becomes a cycle that can be hard to shake especially if it’s not something noticeable.

8. Dissociation

Dissociation is a mental reaction to trauma that interprets what’s happening as a threat and therefore freezes feelings, shutting your emotions off or pausing them. It is a strategy some minds take on when they don’t have the ability to fight or flee in the face of a threat. Dissociation is extremely common among childhood trauma and rape victims. It’s essentially a coping mechanism.

9. Re-experiencing

A person who is struggling with car accident trauma effects may find themselves re-experiencing the event in various ways. This can come in the form of flashbacks, nightmares, visual or auditory memories which could border on hallucination, and repetitive thinking around the traumatic event.

Re-experiencing most commonly occurs at night and can make it tough to sleep. If you find yourself struggling to fall or stay asleep, it could be from subconscious re-experiencing you may not be aware that’s happening.

10. Withdrawal

Emotional numbing strategies a person takes on can bring them away from people, places, or situations they would normally be fine with. This may or may not be related to the trauma. This unfortunately can impact daily activities, including family gatherings and interfere with professional commitments. Some may call it a sort of avoidance. Instead of going out and living your regular life, you may feel more comfortable staying at home and lying in bed as a form of withdrawal.


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