Car accidents can be extremely traumatic events. And their effects will often linger long after injuries are healed, repairs are made, and insurance claims are filed. From anxiety to guilt to post traumatic stress, many drivers, passengers, and even witnesses can experience a strong and serious psychological response to a car accident. Here’s what you should know about the emotional aftermath.

Shock

After a car accident, initial feelings of disbelief are normal. An accident can be a hugely disruptive event for you and those around you, whether or not they were directly involved in the accident itself. Symptoms of shock may include:

  • A slow or delayed response to the accident
  • Replaying the accident over and over
  • Short temper and mood swings

Anger

Car accidents leave plenty of anger to go around: anger at the person who caused the incident, anger at others involved, anger during medical procedures, legal proceedings, or even the claims process. Talk to a professional or someone you trust about how you’re feeling. It’s a great way of letting go of those negative emotions.

Guilt 

Sometimes drivers will turn their feelings of anger inward, blaming themselves for failing to prevent a crash, or lamenting what they would’ve, could’ve, or should’ve done differently. Loved ones may also struggle with feelings of helplessness in the aftermath of a crash. Experts recommend acceptance as the first step toward healing  moving away from the blame game and toward forgiveness.

Anxiety and depression

Anxiety and/or depression can be quite common after a car accident. The severity of symptoms can vary from person to person, but some typical symptoms of anxiety and depression may include:

  • Accelerated heartbeat
  • Sweating or shaking
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Abdominal issues or nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Fear of losing control or death
  • Feeling detached from reality

    If you or a loved one experience any of these symptoms, seek medical attention for a thorough evaluation.

Post-traumatic stress

When anxious and worrying thoughts persist to the point that normal routines are disrupted or avoided, then you may need to seek professional help from someone who specializes in treating post-traumatic stress. Some common symptoms of car accident-related post-traumatic stress include:

  • A persistent feeling of worry or nervousness
  • Anxiety about driving or being a passenger
  • Anger or irritability
  • Insomnia and/or nightmares
  • Thinking about the accident on a loop

Getting help

So what measures can you take to help ease the emotional distress felt after a car accident?

  • Talk to friends and relatives and let those around you know how you’re feeling
  • Get back to your normal routine as soon as possible
  • Take care of yourself  eat healthy meals, get a good night’s sleep, and try to exercise (as long you’ve been cleared by a doctor to do so)
  • Avoid drugs, alcohol, and any other chemicals and activities that are known to trigger anxiety (caffeine, for example)
  • Try breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, and other relaxation techniques to help relieve anxiety and let go of anger
  • Seek professional help from a trained therapist, counselor, or other medical professional if you feel like the difficult emotions of the accident are lasting too long

Car accidents can be scary, but Esurance is here to help. Learn what to do right after a car accident.

Safe and smart | Car safety

about Rebecca

Rebecca is a freelance copywriter and editor living in the SF Bay Area with her husband and two kids. She enjoys productively channeling her anxiety into safety-minded articles for home and garden, running with her robot trainer, and advocating on behalf of the Oxford comma.