Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Are You at Risk?

Typically, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is associated with soldiers who have returned from combat; however, new information has found that the most common cause of PTSD is car accidents.

Car accidents are also the most frequent kind of trauma experienced by American men and the second most frequent trauma experienced by American women. Each year nearly 3 million people are involved in car crashes that cause serious bodily harm. What's more, between 10 and 45 percent of those injured experience PTSD.

A five-year study conducted by the Albany MVA Project looked the psychosocial functioning of over 158 survivors of motor vehicle accidents. Of those that were examined, 39.2 percent developed PTSD initially after the accident or within a year of it.

Symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder is one of a variety of anxiety disorders. In most cases, it occurs after an individual has experienced a traumatic event that involved the threat of injury or death. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), symptoms of PTSD are typically grouped into three categories:

  • re-experiencing
  • avoidance
  • hyper arousal

Re-experiencing symptoms are characterized by flashbacks, bad dreams, or frightening thoughts.

Avoidance symptoms include avoiding places, events, or objects that remind you of the experience. Additionally, you may feel emotionally numb, guilty, depressed, or like you've lost interest in activities that were once enjoyable.

Hyper arousal symptoms are typically characterized by feeling tense or "on edge." You may be jumpy or have difficulty sleeping.

If you suspect that you are suffering from undiagnosed PTSD

1. Talk to your physician or trusted mental health professional. It is essential that you receive a comprehensive psychological examination in order to find out what's causing your symptoms.

2. Once you've received an examination, be sure you're following the doctor's instructions. Many PTSD patients benefit from therapy alone. So keeping up with therapy sessions (either group or individual) could be essential to improving your condition. If your doctor has prescribed medication, it's important you keep up with the prescribed regimen.

3. Additionally, adopting an emotional support dog has been found to help many individuals suffering from this particular disorder. These dogs are specially trained to help mitigate the PTSD.

National Institutes for Mental Health