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Coping with PTSD after a Serious Auto Accident

May 25, 2017

When you tell people about your car accident, they picture the physical damages: an airbag deployed, broken glass, twisted metal, a smoking engine. What they can’t picture are the mental damages. Specifically, they can’t picture your post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

PTSD isn’t something people think about when they think about a car wreck. But PTSD, like any injury, is a very real and a very painful part of a car accident. People can’t see it like they can see a physical injury, but PTSD can be equally, if not more, damaging to an accident victim.

PTSD occurs after a driver experiences a serious auto accident. These accidents involve actual or threatened death or serious injury and create an intense fear or helplessness in the victim. PTSD symptoms include:

  • Re-experiencing a wreck, either physically or psychologically
  • Avoiding thoughts or reminders of the accident/trauma
  • Irritability, hypervigilance or sleep issues

Not all car accident survivors will develop PTSD. However, many will suffer mental health problems, the most common of which are PTSD, depression and anxiety. According to the National Center for PTSD:

  • 9% of car accident survivors experience PTSD
  • Between 14% and 100% of survivors who pursue mental-health treatment have PTSD (an average of 60% across studies)
  • Between 3% and 53% of survivors who pursue treatment and have PTSD also suffer from a mood disorder
  • 27% of survivors who pursue treatment suffer an anxiety disorder in addition to their PTSD, and 15% report a fear of driving

If you’ve been in a serious car accident and you’re suffering from PTSD, you can learn to self-manage your PTSD symptoms. To manage your symptoms, try these 10 PTSD coping methods:

  • Take deep breaths. This slows your breathing and helps calm your PTSD anxiety.
  • Learn to relax the muscles in your body (also called Progressive Muscle Relaxation).
  • During a flashback, ground yourself using surrounding objects and activities.
  • Reduce or eliminate caffeine and nicotine. Both can worsen your PTSD anxiety.
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol. Both can increase your PTSD symptoms.
  • Create boundaries to avoid stressful situations. For example, if you’re bothered by the news or certain TV programs, limit your TV time.
  • Don’t isolate yourself. Be with others, and talk to them for support.
  • Partake in positive activities, even if they don’t feel pleasurable.
  • Start exercising, which relieves muscle tension and improves your mood, energy and sleep.
  • Allow yourself to have bad days, but also, be grateful for the good things in your life.


Are you a car-accident victim who’s now suffering the symptoms of PTSD? If so, you may be entitled to compensation. The lawyers of Berger Lagnese & Paul, LLC are here to help you. For a free consultation, call us now at 412-471-4300, or email us. We represent residents in Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania.

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