Psychological Effects After a Car Wreck

October 27, 2023

Physical injuries after a car wreck can leave devastating and long-lasting effects. These injuries limit your capabilities because of the physical trauma the body undergoes in a serious auto collision. What may go unnoticed are the emotional and psychological traumas that one undergoes in a car wreck, which sometimes linger well after the bodily injuries are healed. These non-physical traumas can also leave debilitating, long-lasting effects. After a car wreck, it is important to take care of your psychological health to minimize traumatic disruptions to the normalcy of your day-to-day life.

Trauma of Car Wreck

When going through a major traumatic event, like a car wreck, some people may develop severe mental, emotional, and physical aftereffects. Victims of a car wreck perceive the accident as a potential threat to their lives, which can effectively change the way the brain interprets how they respond to a number of other situations––even those that others perceive as completely benign or ordinary events. 

Although some people can work through this trauma quickly, others may experience more persistent symptoms that alter the way they process sensory input and negatively impact their normal routines and behavior. 

The following signs may indicate that someone who has been involved in a car crash is experiencing deeper or more chronic psychological trauma in the wake of the accident:

  • Increased irritability 
  • Intrusive memories of the car wreck
  • Nightmares and sleep issues
  • Avoidance of driving, being in a vehicle, visiting the site of the wreck, and thinking or talking about the wreck
  • Increase in negative thoughts and moods

Emotional Distress

When victims of car wrecks develop feelings and behaviors that disrupt their ability to function well in their daily lives, we refer to this state as emotional distress. If emotional distress is severe enough, it may cause difficulty in meeting obligations or engaging in typical routines, such as going to work, attending school, performing usual errands, and even getting out of bed in the morning. When these difficulties are also compounded by physical injuries, they can worsen the problem by reminding the victim of the traumatic event or further interfering with their ability to participate in everyday events. 


Sometimes continued emotional distress from a bad car wreck can lead to a diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Although many people tend to associate this condition with military service, PTSD can be triggered by any sudden, traumatic event or series of events. 

In most cases, people can find ways to cope and adjust after a car wreck if they are given time and support to heal. However, mental health professionals have diagnosed victims of a car wreck with PTSD more frequently than any other mental health disorder, and the severity of the crash itself is not always a reliable predictor of whether someone will develop PTSD as a result. Trauma is personal and unique to each individual’s sensibilities, no two minds or bodies will respond the same way, even if they experienced similar events. 

If symptoms worsen over time and/or disrupt daily life for a long period of time, seek help from a mental health professional to determine if treatment for PTSD is warranted.


After a car wreck, you should be just as vigilant about caring for your mental health as your physical condition. Be kind to yourself, try to avoid letting any possible mood changes and increased irritability affect your self-image, and allow yourself time to recover your emotional health as you would a physical injury. 

These tips can help you on your path to healing:

  • Talk about your feelings to family and friends, and be open with your doctor about any lingering symptoms you’re experiencing––no matter how insignificant or uncomfortable it may seem to report them. If your doctor recommends speaking with a mental health professional, make sure that you follow through.
  • Stick to your daily routine as much as possible, even when your mood is down. The structure of a routine helps you regain a sense of control and reinforces positive thought patterns.
  • Try not to avoid every possible “trigger” for negative feelings. People often develop phobias in the wake of a traumatic event, but facing and conquering them can be highly beneficial––whereas continually withdrawing from them can  hinder your emotional recovery and potentially worsen your symptoms over time. 
  • When you encounter certain tasks or situations (such as the idea of getting behind the wheel again) that cause you to feel some anxiety, don’t be afraid to ask for help from family and friends. Having someone by your side to support and reassure you can help you clear those emotional hurdles and begin to regain a sense of equilibrium.
  • Learn to drive defensively. Avoid distractions, stay alert while driving, make sure your vehicle is properly maintained, and make on-the-road safety precautions a priority––like keeping a safe distance from other vehicles.

We’re Here to Help

If you’ve been injured in a car crash, you may be entitled to compensation for damages, personal injury, and other losses.

Our compassionate team of legal experts will fight against insurers who may try to minimize the trauma you could be experiencing after a car crash and deny you fair compensation for the damages and losses that resulted from the accident.

Call the team at Anderson Traylor Edwards today to schedule a free consultation.

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