How Being in A Car Crash Can Affect Your Mental Well-Being, Not Just Your Physical Health
This year for Bell Let’s Talk Day, we wanted to focus on something we see a lot of at Backs in Action: the impact of a car crash on your mental health. The physical injuries caused by a car accident are more apparent: cuts, bruises, sprains, broken bones and concussions. We don’t often think about the toll a car accident can take on us mentally. Car accidents can affect the mental health of both drivers and passengers, as well as passers-by and witnesses. That’s why it’s important that everyone involved gets help to recover.
Stresses of MVAs
A crash, often referred to in the industry as an MVA (motor vehicle accident), can also lead to further stresses. These include filing claims with your car insurance company, meetings with lawyers and all the associated fees, and financial stresses this can bring. Getting help for the mental and emotional symptoms an accident can cause shouldn’t add to your worries. At Backs in Action, we understand this. And this is why we bill directly to ICBC for counselling services, meaning there is no out-of-pocket charges to you, so you can focus on getting back to your pre-accident self. Quickly and hassle-free.
There are many stresses caused by mental health that can take a toll on your life, but you don’t have to let them take over. Here, we break down the symptoms of various conditions that can come about from being in an accident.
What Mental Health Issues Might I Be Dealing With After an Accident?
There are a number of different things you may experience after an accident: Depression. Anxiety. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Flashbacks. Insomnia. The symptoms for each can take many forms and can range from mild to severe. These include feelings of fearfulness when being in a car or on a busy road, trouble sleeping and flashbacks of the accident. These symptoms can also impact your everyday relationships with family, friends and colleagues. Not everybody may be able to fully understand what you’re going through or the added stress this has brought on.
Below, we discuss each issue in detail and the symptoms you may be experiencing.
Some of the most common symptoms of depression after a car accident involve feeling detached from yourself, your life, and others around you. As a result, it is easy to distance yourself from loved ones. This can also lead to loneliness and feelings of despair and hopelessness. If left untreated, can cause tensions or issues in other aspects of your life including work, family and relationships. One reason for this is that your brain is trying to process the physical and mental trauma of being in an accident. As these aren’t traumas we experience on a regular basis, your mind can sometimes struggle to make sense of the thoughts and memories associated with such a traumatic event. It’s important to get help if you start to feel any of these symptoms or emotions; and remember, you don’t have to handle these feelings on your own.
Anxieties, or panic attacks, can show themselves both physically and mentally. Physically, they may appear as shortness of breath, dizziness, chest pain or discomfort, sweating, shaking, or even nausea or sickness. Mentally, they can express themselves as feelings of panic or disorder, especially when being back in a car, on a particularly busy road, or when driving close to where the accident may have taken place. These symptoms occur as the mind is reminded of the accident and it triggers the body to react in a ‘fight or flight’ manner. Some trigger memories may include cars on the road, the scene of the accident, or a particular sound or smell. The good news is that symptoms of anxiety can be managed, and the underlying issues surrounding the accident can be addressed in a safe and controlled environment, helping you to return to an anxiety-free life.
Post Traumatic Stress and Flashback Symptoms
When you hear the term Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), your mind may turn to army personnel or armed forces as these cases are what we most often see in the media. The truth is that PTSD can affect anyone who has been through a traumatic experience, including a car crash. The symptoms can vary, but one of the most common is the flashback. Flashbacks can take the form of re-seeing short bursts of images from the accident, to re-experiencing long, repetitive sequences from the accident. They can hit us at any time. Usually, they occur with a trigger, similar to the triggers mentioned for anxiety. This does not mean you should avoid situations where triggers may appear completely. Sometimes, being exposed to the triggers in a safe way can help you to conquer the fear and symptoms associated with your PTSD. This is called exposure therapy, which is discussed in more detail below.
It is common wisdom that we should aim to get 8 hours of sleep a night, and that a good night’s sleep can leave us feeling refreshed and energized, ready for the day’s tasks. However, the stress of a car accident can lead to difficulty falling asleep, to patterns of disturbed sleep, and even restless sleep. These all fall under the umbrella category of insomnia, which can negatively impact aspects of your waking life, leaving you with low energy, fatigue, and exhaustion. The physical pain you feel can also hinder your ability to get a good night’s sleep but the impact of the accident on your mental health can leave your mind racing with uncontrollable thoughts which can affect the quality and quantity of your sleep. It’s important that your autopilot brain doesn’t automatically reach for the sleeping tablets in these situations; to really tackle and conquer the problem, you need to deal with and manage the underlying issues caused by the accident.
How Can I Get Help With These Symptoms?
The good news is, there are multiple ways you can approach the management of these symptoms. Counselling offers a number of strategies and coping mechanisms to help you understand your mental health and to return things back to their normal levels. It’s important to note that every client’s recovery journey is individual and a tailored recovery program will be created after an assessment with a registered clinical counsellor. Counsellors have a large toolkit of techniques and approaches that they can take advantage of to help address mental health. Some of these include:
Exposure therapy is used for a variety of mental health issues, including PTSD, anxiety, and flashbacks. It involves safe and controlled exposure to stimuli that mimics the source of anxiety, for example, being back in a car after an accident. A slow increase in controlled exposure to these experiences has been proven to help control anxiety and flashbacks.
Cognitive Therapy works on the understanding that we can control and change our thought patterns, which in turn will have a positive impact on our behaviour. It involves facing the source of your mental health issues head on. Identifying and approaching your issues will not only help you to understand them, but help you to control and manage them. This works particularly well with anxiety and depression as it helps us to see our experiences in manageable ways, swapping unhelpful, distressing, and inaccurate thoughts for helpful and proactive behaviours. Counsellors often use Cognitive Therapy in the recovery of clients who have been in a car accident.
Mindfulness is often used alongside meditation, and can help reduce stress and anxiety, help to tackle depression and flashbacks, and ultimately help you get a better night’s sleep. According to mindful.org “Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.” This helps to ‘calm’ the mind, and put a stop to worries and anxieties.
Starting Your Recovery:
At Backs in Action, we believe in the importance of mental health wellness. That’s why we offer counselling services with our Registered Clinical Counsellor, Veera Grewal. Veera has many years of experience and utilizes a range of approaches, all tailored to an individual’s needs.
If your accident took place less than 3 months ago, we don’t even need a Dr’s referral. If the accident took place before that period, we can request funding from ICBC on your behalf to take away the financial stress so you can focus on getting and feeling better. All we may need is a doctor’s referral in those cases. Once approved, you can book an assessment with our counsellor, and together, create a treatment plan to get you on the road to recovery.