The sounds often persist long after the crash. Squealing tires. Shattering glass. Crushing metal. Wailing sirens. The physical damage is easy to see. Busted vehicles and broken bones. But emotional suffering after a traffic accident is much harder to detect.

What happens after your physical injuries heal and your car is repaired or replaced? Many people associate post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with soldiers returning from combat. But motor-vehicle crashes are one of the leading causes of PTSD.

Identifying PTSD

Here are five symptoms that suggest you might have PTSD:

  • Flashbacks. Sights and sounds trigger traumatic memories that heighten anxiety and make it hard to concentrate. Recurring nightmares mean re-experiencing the crash.
  • Avoidance. Refusing to get back in a car or talk about the accident. Shunning people who remind you of it. Forgoing daily activities.
  • Hyper-arousal: Intense physical reactions to nervousness. Fast breathing. Profuse sweating. Rapid heartbeat. Upset stomach.
  • Unpredictable mood swings. Fear, sadness, hopelessness, irritability, isolation. Feeling like nobody understands what you are going through.
  • Guilt. Shaming yourself into believing the crash was preventable. Wondering what you could have done better. Rejecting that accidents happen.

These are normal emotional responses to a shocking and upsetting event. Grant yourself grace to process your feelings and take the necessary time to recover.

Treating PTSD

Motor-vehicle crashes kill about 96 people every day in the United States. Every year injuries send more than 2.3 million people to hospital emergency rooms. But the psychological consequences drivers and passengers endure can take weeks or months to manifest themselves.

If persistent PTSD symptoms are preventing you from sleeping, working or going to school, you might consider seeing a mental health professional. You might also want to contact a personal injury attorney before settling for an insurance benefit. An experienced lawyer can help you reveal the scope of your injuries, including those to your mental health.