When most people think of injuries from auto accidents, they typically note broken bones, whiplash or maybe a concussion or facial trauma from an air bag deploying. While all of these can indeed be serious and lead to extended recovery periods, there is one often-overlooked consequence of motor vehicle collisions that few consider.
Acute stress disorder (ASD) can result from car accidents. It is similar to the more familiar post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) but it is not as serious or as long-lasting.
What are the symptoms of ASD?
There are five distinct categories of ASD symptoms:
- Negative mood. Anhedonia, or an ongoing inability to feel positive emotions like love or joy.
- Intrusion. Experiencing invasive, distressing and involuntary flashbacks to the traumatic accident while awake or in dreams while sleeping.
- Arousal. Problems getting to sleep or getting a good night’s rest, being irritable during waking hours and struggling to concentrate.
- Avoidance. Giving a wide berth to places, people or things that remind you of the traumatic accident.
- Dissociation. Glimpsing yourself from the perception of an onlooker, experiencing time slowing down and feeling as if you’re in a daze.
For a diagnosis of ASD to be accurate, the individual must suffer these symptoms for a period of three to 31 days after a traumatic event.
In some cases, ASD can segue into full-blown PTSD. However, with counseling, medication and behavior modification techniques, the issue may resolve.
The perils of “survivor syndrome”
Those who are directly exposed to a traumatic event are at highest risk for suffering mental traumas as a result. For instance, while school shootings are traumatic events that affect many individuals, those who suffer physical wounds from the bullets will naturally suffer more intensely than someone who was in a different wing of the building who did not get shot.
But that same scenario can also produce severe mental trauma in those who witness their classmates slaughtered, yet survive unscathed or with relatively minor wounds.
Auto accidents where one or more individuals don’t survive but others do can produce the same “survivor syndrome” wherein those that aren’t killed experience guilt over being alive when others died in the highway carnage. They may feel unworthy or that they, too, should have died in the wreck. Untreated, this condition can lead to a lifetime of depression, risk-taking behaviors and even suicide.
Seek help for ASD
It’s important for those with ASD to realize that there is help available for those suffering the condition. Seeking the appropriate treatment may be necessary in order for you to get your life back on track after an auto accident. Taking legal action against those responsible for the accident may provide you with the funds necessary to receive ongoing counseling to resolve these issues.