What Is PTSD and How Can It Be Triggered by a Life-Threatening Car Crash?

According to the American Psychiatric Association, PTSD is a disorder that arises in people who have been subjected to a traumatic event, like a serious car wreck, and who have “intense, disturbing thoughts and feelings related to their experience that last long after the traumatic event has ended.”

PTSD can easily be triggered by a life-threatening car crash because of the intense nature of the event itself, which may involve a near-death experience, significant and disabling pain, and/or the death or injury of a loved one.

What is the Diagnosis for PTSD?

It was only in 1980 that PTSD earned a place in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM. Since then, as psychologists continue to improve their understanding of the disorder, the definition and criteria of PTSD has evolved in regular updates (the DSM is currently in its fifth version).

According to the National Center for PTSD (part of the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs), PTSD is unique – one does not have a diagnosis, even if she meets much of the other criteria, unless she has met the “stressor criterion,” or trauma. Trauma is the defining hallmark of PTSD. Other criteria follow:

  • Intrusion symptoms, in which the patient re-experiences the trauma through memory or nightmares or prolonged distress (including flashbacks, so often made the brunt of jokes)
  • Avoidance, in which the patient goes to great lengths to avoid any situation that could serve as a reminder of the trauma
  • Changes in cognition and mood, such as lack of enjoyment in favorite hobbies, feeling “detached” in personal relationships, or persistent guilt
  • Changes in one’s reactions, such as trouble concentrating, feeling irritable or aggressive, or acting recklessly in behavior
  • Duration, in which the patient feels this way for at least a month

For obvious reasons, functional impairment is another DSM-5 criterion, in which one has difficulty in her social life and at work.

How Might a Serious Car Crash Trigger PTSD?

Trauma is “Criterion A” in a PTSD diagnosis. As such, a life-threatening motor vehicle accident may cause first-time symptoms, or trigger pre-existing symptoms. Taking a closer look at trauma as outlined in the DSM-5, you find that many who suffer from PTSD had a brush with death from serious injury. Even those who “walk away” from car wrecks relatively unharmed may nonetheless experience PTSD, via exposure to the event, which may include the death or injury of a friend or family member.

Contact Dolan Law Firm

The information on PTSD on this page is by no means exhaustive. Seek the care of a qualified psychologist or psychiatrist for the proper diagnosis (and treatment) of PTSD. If you’ve been seriously injured in a car wreck, you can also seek compensation for having suffered from PTSD, by demanding accountability from those who acted carelessly or recklessly while driving.

Call 415-636-8160 for a free case review.