Whiplash and Post -Traumatic Stress Disorder after a car accident
Along with the signs of physical distress in the body following a car crash, car
accident victims can also suffer from a range of emotional after-effects including
depression, social phobia, anxiety disorders and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
PTSD (a mental disorder connected to trauma) combined with the cognitive
effects of whiplash injury affecting the cervical vertebrae in the neck can have
This is because the nerves in the neck region of the spine are connected with
thought processes and mobility functionality (as the brain communicates with the
limbs to move and run, for example). This means that if a whiplash injury affects
the neck and a car accident victim has PTSD, they will end up experiencing a
psychological double whammy.
What is post traumatic stress disorder?
PTSD is a traumatic emotional condition that occurs after exposure to a terrifying
event or a series of horrifying events. The latter can include physical violence,
rape, natural disasters, kidnappings, fire, abuse (of any kind), terminal illnesses
and car accidents.
PTSD can occur at any age as a sudden, short-term response to a very difficult
situation that has been experienced or as a long-term disturbing memory that
struggles to evacuate the body and mind.
The latter results in memory fragments being processed over a period of time in
the form of flashbacks and nightmares, causing insomnia and sleep-deprivation
problems resulting in poor concentration, attention deficit disorder and memory
Car accidents and flashbacks
Somebody suffering from PTSD may feel frequently frightened and traumatised
as they experience or re-live the trauma during flashbacks. Flashbacks can be 'triggered' by a number of stimuli including images, sounds, smells or connected
feelings that have a strong correlation with the traumatic event.
A person experiencing a car accident flashback may lose all sense of reality and
think they are still in the past trauma and having the accident again.
Understandably, this may be traumatic for a loved one to watch.
PTSD and emotional side-effects
Survivor guilt (of having survived when other people have died in a car accident) is
also often a significant aspect of PTSD. Somebody with PTSD may have an
advanced startle reflex, be emotionally numb, unable to connect with other people
and irritable or aggressive.
These emotions, together with disjointed thought processes from the spinal whiplash injury, can 'block' an individual and make them appear emotionally
disconnected. Slurred speech and communication problems can also occur.
A car accident victim suffering from whiplash or compounded spinal injuries
affecting the cervical vertebrae (connected to the brain and thought processes)
may, therefore, find that their recovery from the accident is more difficult than they
first think. This may particularly show up in cognitive activities such as memory
recall and the ability to function normally in the workplace.
PTSD and physical symptoms
Poor brain-body co-ordination is also an expression of PTSD and trauma
release. During whiplash recovery, the spine and brain try to heal and
communicate effectively with the relevant parts of the body that require mobility.
Tripping, slipping, falling over and spilling or knocking things over are also
common symptoms. Chiropractic treatment is extremely effective at treating the
spine, reducing subluxation and bringing the nerves back to their former state so
that the body can work properly.
Therapies that assist in releasing locked trauma
The best thing a car accident victim with whiplash and PTSD can do to help
themselves is let their employer know that they have been through a traumatic
time. It is also best to seek help through therapies such as psychotherapy and
cognitive behavioural therapy which can assist in releasing locked trauma:
A process when a patient talks to a psychiatrist, social worker or
counsellor about a mental health condition. Psychotherapy differs from
traditional forms of counselling in that counselling deals with ordinary
everyday problems and issues, while psychotherapy generally deals with
deeper mental and emotional problems.
- Cognitive behavioural therapy
This is a form of psychotherapy that emphasises the importance of
thinking in how we feel and what we do. Cognitive behavioural therapy
(CBT) is based on the scientific fact that thoughts cause feelings and
behaviour and aims to shift destructive thought processes that are
harmful or not helpful to you to create more positive thought processes
that are helpful to you.
By unlocking trauma using the therapies above, the brain and body have time to
recover and the mind is freed up to concentrate on being present and carrying out
tasks properly and logically.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder following a car accident or any other harrowing
incident is nothing to be ashamed of and seeking professional help is always the
best thing to do. There is a huge amount of help and advice available and, no
matter how bad the disorder may feel, it is possible to get over it and lead a
normal life once again.
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