After the Crash:

Car Accidents Are Leading Cause For Post-traumatic Stress Disorder In The General Population, Says New Book

Psychological Disorders, Like Depression, Predispose Accident Victims to Developing PTSD; Women Suffer More Than Men

WASHINGTON — Over three million people a year are involved in automobile accidents which cause serious bodily injury and psychological distress. Between 10 and 45 percent of those injured later suffer from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which can interfere with their daily functioning, according to the first book that comprehensively examines the psychological effect of motor vehicle accidents on the survivors of a crash. Car accidents are also the most frequent kind of trauma experienced by American men and the second most frequent trauma experienced by American women.

”Besides this being a national public health problem,” say psychologists Edward B. Blanchard, Ph.D., and Edward J. Hickling, Psy.D., authors of After The Crash: Assessment and Treatment of Motor Vehicle Accident Survivors, which is published by the American Psychological Association (APA), ”it is also taking a psychological toll. Not only are almost half of those in car accidents at a noticeable risk for developing PTSD, but there are other non symptomatic signs that affect them, like having trouble on the job and in school, maintaining friendships and not being able to enjoy leisure time.”

Since broken bones and soft tissue injuries are the first things taken care of after a car accident, the emergency room and primary care medical doctors along with the physical therapist end up becoming the gatekeepers to other caretakers, says Dr. Blanchard. ”Knowing about PTSD symptoms would be very important in making an appropriate referral. This is similar to what primary care physicians went through 15 years ago when they were being sensitized to symptoms of depression’

”Also, because of the debilitating effect car accidents can have and the necessity of daily driving in many people’s lives, it is crucial to have services available to those suffering from the repercussions of an accident. One has to be able to drive a car or be a passenger without experiencing severe anxiety,” says Dr. Blanchard.

43.5 percent of the survivors with PTSD developed major depression after the accident,” say the authors. ”It appears that psychological disorders, like depression, predispose accident victims to developing PTSD’.

Other problems also plagued the survivors from the Albany study who suffered from PTSD, say the authors. At least 15.3 percent of them developed a driving phobia (stopped driving or severely restricted their driving) and 93.2 percent of the survivors developed driving reluctance (avoided the site of the accident and weather conditions and certain road and traffic conditions that were similar to conditions the day of the accident, and did not want to be a passenger).

learning how to think about the traumatic experience in healthier ways appear to be the most effective in reducing the accident survivors’ PTSD symptoms and other psychological problems that resulted from the accident.

Book: After the Crash: Assessment and Treatment of Motor Vehicle Accident Survivors by Edward B. Blanchard, Ph.D., University of Albany at SUNY and Edward J. Hickling, Psy.D., Russell Sage College and Albany Medical College.

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