PTSD After An Accident – A Guide To Causes, Signs And Treatment, Diagnosis

 A PTSD After An Accident Overview

PTSD Overview Help Guide

PTSD Overview Help Guide

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder brought on by experiencing trauma. People with this disorder could experience symptoms like flashbacks, insomnia, mood swings, etc. Most people will display a common response to trauma, like stress, shock, difficulty sleeping, etc. and in most cases, these feelings will pass over time. It is when the symptoms do not pass that PTSD could develop, and the person may begin to experience the more intense symptoms of PTSD.

Traumatic events can include a wide range of different examples, such as physical abuse, a difficult birth, witnessing a death, etc. Accidents are also a common source of trauma for most people, for example, a car accident, an accident at work, being a victim of a violent crime, etc. If the event deeply effects the person on an emotional, mental or physical level, it could cause symptoms that could later develop into PTSD.

This article will discuss the development of PTSD after an accident, including the causes, signs and available treatments. PTSD treatments can include watchful waiting, various psychological therapies, and medications used to help a person better manage their symptoms. Many people are not aware that they might qualify for free treatment for PTSD and our advisors could tell you in minutes if you qualify. Contact us today on 020 3870 4868, or us our online contact form to arrange a time for us to call you back.

Select A Section

  1. An Overview Of PTSD After An Accident
  2. What Does PTSD Stand For?
  3. Short/Long-Term Effects Of PTSD
  4. What Generally Causes PTSD?
  5. Clear Signs Of PTSD After An Accident
  6. What Accidents Cause PTSD?
  7. When To Seek Medical Attention
  8. Types Of PTSD
  9. PTSD After Accidents Statistics
  10. Treatments For PTSD
  11. Call Us Today For Free Treatment
  12. Additional Resources To Relevant Pages

An Overview Of PTSD After An Accident

The meaning of PTSD is extreme stress caused by a traumatic event. This extreme stress can manifest itself in a number of symptoms, such as feeling guilt, anger and fear about what happened, as well as having intense flashbacks and nightmares about the event. These PTSD symptoms can vary depending on the type you have and can also vary in severity from person to person.

Causes of trauma can include any event that puts a person under immense physical, emotional or mental strain. A person could develop PTSD from an auto accident like a car crash; through a job that exposed them to stressful events like that of a rescue worker; or through a difficult birth that threatened the lives of mother and baby.

Not every person will develop PTSD following trauma, and there are many cases where a person with a good support network around them will be able to move on from the event after some time. However, in those with PTSD, these symptoms don’t pass, can increase in severity and have a significant impact on a person’s life.

There are different types of PTSD, and the treatments for them range between medication and psychological therapy. It is normal for each person to have their own tailored treatment plan, as every person can experience PTSD differently.

What Does PTSD Stand For?

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD, by definition, is an anxiety disorder that comes on as a result of a traumatic event. It is not known exactly why some people develop PTSD and some do not, but there are some things that can make a person more susceptible to PTSD.

Those who have had mental illness in the past or are currently living with one have a higher chance of developing PTSD following a traumatic event. A person who has been exposed to multiple sources of trauma in their lives are also more likely to the develop it. PTSD previously used to be known as shell shock, when the disorder was first recognised in soldiers returning from war. Over time however, it has been accepted that PTSD can occur in anyone and be caused by war and conflict as well as many other types of trauma.

A person who is diagnosed with PTSD will suffer from vivid recollections of the event, have panic attacks, insomnia, amnesia, and strong mood swings that come on suddenly. The list of symptoms of PTSD can be quite long, and how intense they are can differ from person to person. This condition can be difficult to diagnose and takes time to recover from. The recovery time depends on the personal progress made by each person during treatment, and some people can experience symptoms of PTSD for the rest of their lives.

Short/Long-Term Effects Of PTSD

Treating PTSD can take a significant amount of time, depending on the person. It is not a condition that develops and passes quickly, with one specific cure. It takes time to develop in a person and takes time for a person to go through their treatment plan into recovery. There are some cases where a person might recover completely from their symptoms, but others may find that they keep occurring, even after treatment has stopped.

The symptoms that keep occurring can include the flashbacks, feelings of low mood and depression, anger, guilt, difficulty sleeping as well as many others. Although these symptoms might not disappear completely, treatment has been shown to reduce the impact the symptoms can have on a person’s life. Treatment helps to teach the person how to recognise and cope more effectively with their symptoms, which enables them to regain a good quality of life.

What Generally Causes PTSD?

There is no known specific cause of PTSD, but the NHS outlines some possible contributing factors that make a person more likely to develop the disorder following trauma. These factors include:

  • Alterations to the physical make-up of the brain: It has been observed that in people with PTSD, a certain section of the brain has a different shape than in those who do not. This part of the brain is called the hippocampus, which is used in handling emotions and memory. Its reduced size could mean that any feelings associated with the event or flashbacks to it, might not be properly handled by the brain, resulting in the symptoms of PTSD.
  • Instincts of survival: In this cause, it is thought that the flashbacks and emotions they bring are your survival instincts trying to keep you constantly prepared and alert, so that you don’t have to suffer from another traumatic event again. This results in the PTSD symptoms not passing and preventing you from moving on from the event.
  • Higher than usual adrenalin hormones: It has been observed than in people with PTSD, there are unusually high levels of adrenalin and other stress hormones present. It is thought that those with PTSD continue to produce these levels, even when they are at no risk of harm, resulting in the continued PTSD symptoms.

Apart from possible biological factors that could make some one more vulnerable to developing PTSD, more common causes include accidents and events that deeply effect a person on an emotional, mental and physical level. We will discuss some of these causes in a later section.

Clear Signs Of PTSD After An Accident

Symptoms of PTSD can come from a car accident, being a victim of domestic abuse, a violent assault, or an event that leaves the person feeling traumatised. Symptoms can be more intense for some people, and a person does not necessarily have to display all of these symptoms to be diagnosed with PTSD.

Revisiting The Traumatic Event

This is one of the most distinctive symptoms of PTSD and can have the most considerable effect on a person’s day to day life. It is one of the symptoms that can make moving on from an event so difficult. Revisiting an event can include having vivid flashbacks and nightmares, which can include images of the event occurring to them. It can also include the person constantly revisiting the event in their mind, thinking about ways they could have avoided the event, and asking if they might be able to get revenge on those responsible.

Avoiding Reminders

It is common for those with PTSD to actively avoid things that remind them of the trauma they experienced. These reminders are sometimes referred to as triggers and can come in all shapes and sizes. A trigger could be a certain social situation, being in large crowds, certain sights, sounds, songs, movies, etc. This can often lead to a person abandoning hobbies or passions they had prior to the trauma and losing relationships as they can sometimes begin to withdraw from socialising. A person can also become emotionally numb as they make efforts to push thoughts and reminders out of their minds.

Heightened Emotions

This is sometimes also referred to as increased arousal, where a person constantly feels on edge. In this symptom, the person is usually always expecting something bad to happen, and they are quick to anger, frustration and can be easily scared. It is this symptom that can make sleeping or concentrating particularly difficult.

Other Common Symptoms

Some other symptoms that can be associated with PTSD include nausea, headaches, feeling unsteady on your feet as well as depression, a tendency to self-harm or destructive behaviour.

What Accidents Cause PTSD?

There many different causes of PTSD but being involved in an accident is one of the most common causes of PTSD. Accidents can happen in all aspects of life, and if they have an emotionally, mentally, or physically negative impact on you, they could lead to PTSD. Some examples include:


Being exposed to death or being harmed during military activities could greatly affect the mental health of soldiers and military personnel. The experiences soldiers have while on duty are known to leave a mark on them, and it is common for soldiers involved in active conflict to return home with symptoms of PTSD.


A road traffic accident can include being involved in a collision with any other road user. For example, a car could hit a cyclist, another car, or a motorcyclist. PTSD after a motorcycle accident or a car accident can occur if the person has been severely affected by the events.

Traumatic Relationships (i.e. domestic violence)

Being a victim of domestic violence can also result in PTSD developing. This is due to the physical, mental and emotional abuse and manipulation that can occur.

Violent Crime

Violent crime can include a physical or a sexual assault. Either of these could cause PTSD, as well as witnessing these happening to someone else. These can include being assaulted, a robbery that put your life in danger, or sexual abuse like rape. Symptoms for sexual abuse can take a long time to surface, and it is typical for a person to develop PTSD later in life if they have been sexually abused when they were a child.

When To Seek Medical Attention

Every person responds to trauma in a different way. However, most people will have a similar initial response to going through something traumatic. This response includes shock, fear, anger, flashbacks, lingering thoughts on the event, etc. Having these feelings after an event in normal, but it might be time to seek medical attention if you are still feeling like this after four weeks. It may also be advisable to seek medical attention if at any time following trauma, you begin to feel suicidal, or like you want to hurt yourself.

Types Of PTSD

Due to the fact that trauma is different for everyone, the symptoms that develop can vary from person to person. Because of this, PTSD is a different experience for each individual, and it is often hard to diagnose what type a person has, or if they have it at all. Below is a list of the most common types of PTSD that have been diagnosed.

Normal Stress Response

This is a response that most people experience after a traumatic event. This type does not always lead to PTSD, but it is the stage just before it. The symptoms of this type are feeling distant from real life, being emotionally numb, and a tendency to feel isolated from relationships. A person will sometimes feel physically tense and under stress.

Acute Stress Disorder

This type is slightly more intense than a normal stress response, but similarly it does not always lead to a PTSD diagnosis. This can usually result from a person being exposed to death, or a significant threat to their life. A person can usually find it hard to trust anyone, will have issues sleeping, and may suffer from panic attacks.

Uncomplicated PTSD

In this type, the person will usually begin to experience flashbacks, nightmares or reoccurring images on the event. In this type, avoidance also begins to surface, and will start to feel emotions related to hopelessness and anger, and always feel on edge.

Comorbid PTSD

In this type, the person will usually have an existing mental heal condition, such as depression, and this will exist alongside their PTSD. Treatment for this type can be complicated by the fact that the symptoms from the pre-existing condition will also need to be treated. This type also presents with the same symptoms as uncomplicated PTSD.

Complex PTSD

Complex PTSD is one of the most difficult types to treat and is more common in those whose trauma is historical or happened when they were a child. In this type, symptoms of PTSD might not surface for a long time after the event, and they can be more severe. With this type, along with all the symptoms associated with uncomplicated PTSD, a person could display borderline personality disorder, depression, eating disorders, and amnesia.

PTSD Statistics

The possibility of developing PTSD following a traumatic event or accident is not as common as some people may assume. The NHS conducted a survey over the course of one month, which looked at the amount of people that developed PTSD following trauma. The following figures were found:

AgeMen % Women %
16 -243.612.6
25 - 344.76.2
35 - 44 4.44.7
45 - 544.24.8
55 - 645.02.5
65 - 741.12.0

The above table shows that not everyone that goes through trauma will develop PTSD. It also shows that age and gender are not major factors when it comes to developing the condition after experiencing trauma.

Treatments For PTSD

Treatment for PTSD after a car accident, physical assault, being involved in war or conflict, etc. all depends on the severity of the symptoms, and the type of PTSD a person develops. Treatments for PTSD include medication, psychological therapy, as well as self-care and group therapy. A treatment plan is usually tailored to each person’s individual needs, as some treatment are more effective for certain combinations of symptoms.

Watchful Waiting

Watchful waiting is a process that is followed when a person first experiences a traumatic event. It is followed before a person is officially diagnosed with PTSD and happens in the first four weeks following the trauma. With this treatment, a person is advised to monitor themselves for symptoms of PTSD, and then report back to their doctor after four weeks. This is necessary because although most people will display these symptoms, it is in cases where the symptoms do not pass or get better after four weeks that a person may have to seek further treatment.


This type of treatment is usually used when there are existing mental health conditions present when a person is diagnosed with PTSD. This is because it is necessary to treat symptoms of other conditions alongside symptoms of PTSD, otherwise treatments might not be effective. Treating PTSD with medication is also usually only used when a person is not responding well to psychological therapies. It will usually be used in conjunction with therapy, and the most common types of medication include mirtazapine, sertraline, paroxetine and other kinds of antidepressants.

Psychological Therapies

If watchful waiting has shown that symptoms are not fading, or are becoming more intense, a doctor will usually continue to refer you to a specialist who is better equipped to help you address your condition. There are different types of psychological treatment and a person may benefit from just one, or a combination of many.

  • Group therapy: It has been shown that many people with PTSD benefit from group therapy, where people with similar experiences come together to talk openly about what happened, as well as discussing other ways of managing their symptoms. Groups are usually divided into people who have experienced similar trauma, which allows a person to see how other people are living with their experiences.
  • Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR): It is not known exactly why EMDR helps to relieve a person’s symptoms, but it has been found to be very helpful in reducing the intensity of a person’s flashbacks and nightmares. This treatment works by a person following an object with their eyes as it slowly moves from left to right while talking openly to their doctor about the traumatic event.
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: This therapy is constructed to try and help a person think differently about their traumatic experience. Through regular sessions and conversations, a person is encouraged to openly confront the trauma, and honestly express how it makes them feel or react. It has been shown that if a person can learn to understand the event more, and change the way they perceive it, it will lessen he effect it has on them.

Call Us Today For Free Treatment

PTSD is a long-term mental health condition that requires a structured treatment plan. The right treatment plan could help to reduce the symptoms of PTSD and allow a person to regain a good quality of life as they recover from a traumatic event. Many people are not aware that they might qualify for free PSTD treatment. Our team could tell you in minutes if you are eligible, so call us today on 020 3870 4868. Alternatively, you could use our handy online contact form to have us call you at a time that suits you best.

Additional Resources To Relevant Pages

This article was put together to provide useful information on developing PTSD after an accident. For further information we have included some additional links you might find helpful.

Fractured Skull – See here for more information on the causes, symptoms and treatment for a fractured skull.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Page From The Health Experts – A PTSD overview and general information page.

NHS Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – See here for more information from the NHS about PTSD.

Every Mind Matters – See this site from the NHS dedicated to assisting people who are living with PTSD.

The Health Experts – See our site for more information on injuries and illnesses.