I know car accidents are about the last thing that we as anxious drivers want to think about. The reality though is that accidents, although relatively rare, DO happen. Like traffic jams and highways, they are one of the realities of modern transportation, and driving anxiety cannot be overcome by ignoring reality. Having anxiety after a car accident is very common, even normal. A car accident can be a traumatic event that even throws people WITHOUT driving anxiety off their stride for a while.
The problem is that some don’t get over the trauma and keep obsessing — reliving and replaying the accident in their minds, over and over again. When this happens and the person can’t get over their anxiety after an accident, they may develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The Mayo Clinic defines PTSD as follows:
“Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.”The Mayo Clinic
PTSD is especially common if the accident involves death or injury, but even fender benders can cause PTSD for some people.
If you’re suffering from PTSD or chronic anxiety disorder after a car accident, here’s how you can help yourself start the recovery process:
7 Ways to Recover From Anxiety After a Car Accident
- Psychotherapy — Therapy is often the best way for many people to get over trauma-related anxiety. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is particularly effective. Look for a qualified CBT therapist in your area.
- Hypnotherapy — Hypnosis and/or guided meditation can often resolve traumatic emotions in as little as three sessions. There are many skilled hypnotherapists, including Driving Peace co-founder Andrew Cunningham.
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) — If you’ve never heard of EMDR, it’s a type of psychotherapy that incorporates stimulating the left and right hemispheres of the brain via movement of the eyes. I’ve done some of this work with my therapist and it is AMAZINGLY effective for decreasing anxiety after a car accident. I highly recommend it, although you should only do EMDR with the help of a qualified professional. Click here to search for EMDR professionals in your area.
- Emotional Freedom Technique (Tapping) — Another type of therapy designed to quickly resolve painful emotions, tapping for anxiety is related to therapies like acupuncture. Note: Tapping does NOT involve needles.
- Self care / self love — Practicing good self care, particularly after a traumatic event, is a very important part of recovery. Be gentle with yourself and focus on caring for yourself via good diet, exercise, recreation and spending quality time with friends and family. Your own self love is one of the most powerful healing forces there is.
- Medication — Sometimes medication is a useful tool for reducing the impact of traumatic anxiety. Although I don’t believe it’s the best choice, I recognize that everyone’s needs are different and that medication is an appropriate choice for some people. You should only use anxiety medication under the care of a doctor or another qualified health care provider.
- Defensive driving course — Some people overcome driving-related PTSD by learning defensive driving skills. This often gives people a more powerful sense of control and of taking charge of the environment behind the wheel. I think learning better driving skills is a GREAT choice under any circumstances, even if it’s not in response to the aftermath of an accident.
Having trauma or anxiety after a car accident is very common and happens to millions of people. Feeling shaken up by an accident is normal, but there’s no need to remain stuck in anxiety or PTSD. Many effective ways of working through car accident anxiety are now available. I hope these suggestions help point you in the right direction.