Recovering Psychologically after a collision

When you have been involved in a serious auto collision, you may often find that recovering psychologically from trauma at an emotional level if every bit as difficult, or even more so, than getting over the physical damage caused by the collision. You may discover that even if you feel relatively unharmed immediately after the collision, you can start to experience emotional difficulties days, months or even years after the collision.

What makes it even more difficult is that family and friends find it difficult to understand what you are going through on an emotional level. Emotional recovery is an important part of the healing process after an auto collision.
Symptoms after traumatic collisions can include emotional and cognitive difficulties alongside the physical damage.

Psychological Triggers

Psychological Trauma Triggers

Specialists agree that psychological trauma can and does occur when a victim survives an extraordinarily frightening event. Even if an auto collision is physically undamaged, they can still feel emotionally shattered, shell shocked and devastated.

How do the symptoms present themselves?

After a traumatic collision, survivors can experience a vast array of feelings, ranging from rage to helplessness to an ongoing sense of impending doom. Symptoms can show themselves within hours of a collision, or they might not appear for months. Emotionally, victims can have feelings of:

  • Shock, denial and disbelief
  • Anger, irritability and extreme agitation
  • Guilt at having survived when someone else did not, leading to further feelings of shame or even self-blame
  • Sadness or extreme hopelessness
  • Deep and persistent anxiety, worries and fear
  • Social withdrawal which leads to isolation
  • Feelings of emotional numbness one moment, with extreme mood swings the next

As well as the obvious difficulties these symptoms present in a victim’s daily life, they can also drastically affect their ability to work, or to communicate with friends, family and loved ones.


At a cognitive level, people trying to recover emotionally after a serious auto collision can also experience:

Confusion, difficulty in concentrating on even minor tasks, or forgetfulness
Terrifying flashbacks or intrusive memories
Insomnia or terrifying nightmares
Suddenly elevated, racing heartbeat
Extreme fatigue or unusually low energy levels
Muscle tension, aches and pains not directly related to the injuries received in the collision itself
Blinding headaches or severe stomach disorders
Spells of uncontrollable crying
Becoming overly vigilant and being very easily startled or frightened


How can psychological or emotional trauma be treated?

The human mind is a wonderful thing, but it is also incredibly complex. As such, no two people will ever react in exactly the same way even if they were seated directly next to each other when the collision occurred.

Experts say that the most important thing for any victim to understand is that they should not judge themselves or feel guilty about the way they are reacting to their own trauma. Recovering emotionally after an auto collision takes time and it’s not as easy as some of your friends might think to “shake it off,” or to “just get over it.” Denying your emotional trauma will not help your recovery.  Burying the symptoms won’t kill them and may only make them worse.

Some of the ways you can help yourself along the way include:

  • Make taking care of yourself a top priority. Eat a good, balanced diet and try to take regular exercise. This will help you to get the rest you need.
  • Talk about it! Let the friends you truly trust know how you’re feeling. Tell your family when and why you’re feeling emotional.
  • Seek out an online support group.
  • Stay active if you’re physically able to do so. Try to maintain a normal, balanced schedule between work and home life. Don’t remove yourself from those things in which you would normally be involved.
  • Getting professional help.

If the symptoms won’t go away, or if they’re getting worse in spite of following the self-help tips above, you should seek professional help, particularly if:

  • The symptoms have persisted unabated for weeks
  • You find you can no longer function normally at work
  • You feel you are having trouble with your home life
  • You find yourself taking unreasonable steps to avoid things that remind you of the crash
  • You feel you need to use alcohol or drugs—even prescription drugs—to cope

A traumatic auto collision can literally change your entire life in an instant. Physical damage can have a negative impact on your finances, your career and your family life but it’s also important to realize that emotional trauma can be equally devastating. Many people try to cover it up.  They feel they should be able to get over a collision easily, particularly if their physical injuries have cleared up.

If you are an auto collision victim and are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned in this article, you need to understand that you are not alone. Emotional trauma is common and real.  It’s just not discussed as much as the more easily diagnosed physical injuries. Don’t suffer in silence. Get the help you need from family, friends or from experienced professionals.

The advice and information contained in this article are for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace a physician’s advice. Please always consult your physician for your medical needs.

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