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Emotionally Surviving a Motor Vehicle Accident

By: Tiffany Mitchell

Here is Jane’s story. I was recently in a car accident, I walked away with only mild injuries, but I just can not seem to relax. My physiotherapist keeps telling me that I should be healed and back to my regular activities, but I am still in so much pain. When I am in the vehicle, I am tense and constantly checking my rear-view mirror worried I am going to get hit from behind again. My shoulders are constantly tight, and I am avoiding driving whenever I can. When I must drive, I feel my focus is always on my mirrors and other drivers, I am so scared of what could happen. At home I am irritated and grumpy with my loved ones, I struggle sleeping constantly tossing and turning and my mind is spinning.

Does this story sound familiar? It is an often experienced but not talked about occurrence after being in a motor vehicle collision. Research has demonstrated that up to 67% of people in a motor vehicle collision with resulting physical injuries, such as whiplash, concussion, or resulting chronic pain, suffer some variance of adverse mental health. As well, 20% of people in a motor vehicle collision without physical injuries have been surveyed and found to display post traumatic stress, depression, anxiety, or emotional dysregulation. A collision is a form of trauma, and like any trauma everyone will respond in different ways. When having experienced trauma, we do not always bounce back in ways we expect or desire.

Understanding and accepting that there is a change can be hard but knowing how to cope with the after-effects can be even harder.

People often want professional help to learn how to deal with the trauma, but a barrier is often cost. One thing that many do not know is that majority of vehicle insurances cover different services to varying amounts. Some of the more common services covered are; Psychology, Chiropractic, Physiotherapy, Acupuncture, Massage, Dental, Occupational therapy. These coverage’s are often more extensive when compared to general extended health care benefits. For example, with psychology the amount of sessions approved is often based on the Psychologists recommendation rather than a blanket amount set by the insurance company.

There are no guarantees or specific predictors to suggest who will be more adversely affected by a motor vehicle collision compared to others. Some examples of possible predictors are; manner of the accident, past stress or childhood trauma, and severity of the accident – including damage to the vehicle. How an individual perceives the accident, or how others describe it can have more of a detrimental impact than the accident itself. For example, an emergency response provider comments how lucky you are to be alive. Or yourself looking at the events of the accident and thinking “wow it could have been so much worse if I did ‘y’ instead of ‘x’.” In understanding why there is an adverse effect to a motor vehicle collision, it is important to not just consider the physical impact but also the perception of the accident. Both provide pieces to the puzzle and influence trauma and coping strategies.

Motor vehicle collisions can be very traumatic and impact on an individual’s mental health, which in turn can have a major impact on one’s ability to physically heal and function in daily living. Speaking with a professional can be very helpful and can help walk you through the struggles being encountered and help in understanding why. It is important to remember that it is common to struggle emotionally and physically after a collision. If you want help, there is help available, and money is accessible through your vehicle insurance, like the funding available for physical health recovery.

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