What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

What is Post-Traumatic Stress

Annually, about 1% of those across the country will incur an injury sustained from a car accident. Many accidents stem from human errors, such as speeding, drunk driving, distracted driving, and other reckless activity. As discussed in prior segments, crashes are a severe health concern and financial burden. Aside from physical injury, many accident victims endure psychological trauma. Injured victims may experience depression, anxiety, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), leading to troubles with self-confidence and relationships.

Traumatic Events & Stress

Trauma is injury to the mind or body from an outside force. Sudden physical or emotional shocks harm people’s psychological status. Accidents are often cited as a source of traumatic stress. Reports indicate that motor vehicle accidents are the most traumatic events that 25% of men experience. They are the second leading traumatic experience for females–affecting roughly 13%. Injuries and fatalities are an unfortunate drawback of our highly mobile society. People do not give much thought to the potential results of accidents until personally impacted. Commonly, accidents cause greater psychological problems compared to physical problems. Accidents may bring about depressed feelings, panic disorder, and are now a leading cause of PTSD.

Common Traumatic Reactions

  • Shock & grief
  • Worry
  • Fatigue
  • Withdraw

Harmful Reactions

  • Numbness
  • Emptiness
  • Attempts at avoidance
  • Dissociation
  • Depressiveness & anxiousness

What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, PTSD is a condition that occurs after a scary, very intense, or shocking event. Those with PTSD have continued feelings of stress and fear after the danger has passed. Most people that experience trauma will recover from the experience shortly after.

Signs & Symptoms of PTSD

Conditions may exist for a short (acute) or for a long period, which demonstrates chronic PTSD. To qualify as PTSD, the symptoms must create problems with relationships. Psychiatrists or psychologists diagnose according to certain criteria whereby at least one of the following criterions exist for a month or longer:

  • Must re-experience the event, often with “flashbacks”
  • Demonstrate avoidance from places or objects that are reminders of the experience
  • Experience two or more symptoms of arousal or reactivity
  • Experience two or more adverse symptoms regarding mood and cognition
  • Have negative thoughts or dreams
  • Have disruptions in day-to-day activities.

Some of the signs and indications that may be clearly noticeable include sadness, crying spells, or dramatic losses of energy. The individual may change eating habits leading to weight loss or weight gain, have different sleep patterns, or begin to abuse alcohol.

Predictive Risk Factors

Pre-Accident Factors

Individuals may have characteristics that make them potentially more susceptible to PTSD. They may have demonstrated the inability to cope in prior incidents of trauma. There may be existing mental health concerns including a history of depression. Individuals who also lack an adequate support structure are more likely to develop PTSD.

Accident-Related Factors

The severity and nature of the physical injury that occurred in the event will generally correlate to the potential for PTSD. Events that were, or were perceived to be, life-threatening are generally the most likely to lead to PTSD. These sufferers likely have immediate physical limitations or are coping with an injury or loss of a loved one.

Post-Accident Factors

The rate of recovery from an injury has an impact. The existence or lack of social support from friends and family will play a factor in the individual’s mood and outlook. The ability to, or likelihood of, the person to get back to prior aspects of life, such as work, social activity, or routine, will have a tremendous effect on the individual’s recovery.


Those who survive severe vehicle accidents should attempt to regain the lifestyle that they had prior to the event. Many injury victims may visit with their primary care doctor or adhere to their physical therapy regimen, yet ignore or neglect their mental health status. Mental health treatment may include behavioral therapy and medication that can assist with depression and anxiety. It is important for people to provide support to motor vehicle accident injury victims. The three overall goals are to pursue medical care, obtain therapy, and to maintain strong support from peers and loved ones.

This blog concludes our 5-part series on common injuries that occur during or after a car accident. Many injuries are accompanied by psychological pain. To fully heal, both physical injuries and mental pain must be addressed, but it can be difficult without just and fair compensation. Seeking legal help can benefit you in the short and longterm.

Office Location

  • Denver
  • Arvada
  • Aurora
  • Boulder
  • Brighton
  • Colorado Springs
  • Lakewood
  • Westminster
  • Wheat Ridge

Put my knowledge and expertise to work for you. Contact my office today to discuss your case in a free consultation.