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9 Behavioural Symptoms Of An Emotional Trauma

Counselling after a car accident due to a trauma

Trauma - everyone faces it

Everyone goes through trauma at a certain point in their lives. Because of this, most will suffer through symptoms that can impact their daily life.

What is emotional or psychological trauma?

Trauma is defined as a physical or mental injury to the body due to an external agent. If people go through any trauma, they can be injured by physical and/or emotional scars. In fact, the word "trauma” comes from the Greek word meaning “wound”.

Psychological trauma is a kind of injury to someone's psyche that happens due to an accident. It can lead to physical and chemical changes in the brain which affect people's stress levels. Trauma involves a singular experience or continuous events.

These can totally overwhelm people's ability to cope. A sense of overwhelming can last as long as weeks or years. This is because people find it hard to cope with their current issues. That said, various people can react differently to similar events.

A person could consider an event as traumatic while others may not. Also, not every person that experiences a traumatic situation will face psychological trauma. Whether you consider the source or not, emotional trauma has three basic elements:

  • It is unexpected
  • The individual is unprepared
  • he individual can do nothing to avoid the trauma from occurring

It is not the accident itself that decides whether something is traumatic or not. Rather, the person's experience of the accident decides this. And you cannot predict how any one person will react in a particular situation.

For people who are used to having control over their lives, the symptoms of trauma can be damaging. They can feel shocked, surprised, embarrassed or depressed from the loss of control.

What trauma do accident victims face?

Car accidents are the main cause of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They are the most common trauma for men and the second-most common trauma for women. PTSD is a very severe anxiety condition. It usually develops from a traumatic situation or event that causes any harm or threat. Car accidents are usually the most frequent trauma individuals go through.

So, what are the symptoms of trauma due to car accidents?

It is crucial to remember that developing symptoms does not mean people are weak. Individuals that suffer from traumatic events commonly have some symptoms and issues later. The severity of the symptoms depends on

  • The person
  • The kind of trauma
  • The emotional support they receive from others

Responses to and signs of trauma can be broad and variable, and vary in severity between each person. A traumatized person can experience a single symptom or multiple ones together.

Occasionally these reactions may be delayed for a short or even a longer period of time. Many times, people do not connect their symptoms with their previous trauma in the beginning.

Here are some of the common behavioural signs of emotional trauma:

  • Drug abuse
  • Impulsive habits
  • Self-destructive and compulsive attitudes
  • Unmanageable reactive ideas
  • Loss of ability to make healthy lifestyle decisions
  • Dissociative signs ("losing" parts of yourself)
  • Emotions of inefficiency, guilt, despair, and uselessness
  • Feeling completely damaged
  • A lack of previously held beliefs

Extra Symptoms Linked with a Severe Triggering Event

The recollection of the trauma

  • Intrusive ideas
  • Relapses, flashbacks or horrible dreams
  • Random changes of emotions or hallucinations related to the accident

Emotional shutdown and denial

  • Amnesia
  • Denial of events that resemble the initial accident
  • Emotional detachment
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Feelings of shame or guilt
  • The reliving of the accident and grief that came with it
  • A changed sense of space or time

Increased hypersensitivity

  • Hyper-awareness, jitters, a major sense of staying on guard
  • Excessive reactions, such as sudden bursts of anger
  • Generalized anxiety
  • Insomnia or restlessness
  • Focused on death

What are the factors of trauma and stress after a car accident?

Why does an accident result in a traumatic reaction in one individual and not the other? We have no exact answer to this question, but we can say that there can be one or more factors involved, including:

  • The severity of the accident
  • The person's personal history (family, medical, psychological and traumatic)
  • The bigger meaning the accident gives to the individual. (this might not be instantly clear)
  • Coping mechanisms, morals, and beliefs a person holds. (some of which may have to still be discovered)
  • The reactions and support from family, friends, and/or professionals

So, how do you treat trauma after car accidents?

As time passes by, even without professional help, the effects of trauma usually subside. So, regular daily functions can return over time. That said, even if time passes by, sometimes certain symptoms may still stay. The signs may seem to be gone, but they can come again in another triggering situation.

When someone's everyday life or lifestyle choices are continuously impacted, PTSD may be the issue. A severe disorder like this, therefore, requires professional help. The great news is that psychological treatment can prevent a lot of long-term effects. Conventional ways to treat such trauma include:

  • Talk Therapy: this helps work out the emotions linked to the trauma
  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): this involves altering thoughts and reactions. It includes desensitizing yourself to lower reactivity to any triggers
  • Relaxation/Anxiety Yoga techniques: these include biofeedback and working with the breath
  • Hypnosis: this helps deal with responses commonly under the surface of self-awareness

People can also use intervention or support strategies. These include the following:

  • Crucial Incident Anxiety Management
  • Follow-Ups with Therapy and Counselling
  • Check-Ups and Referrals for Professional Help

Don't be afraid to get the help you need

Car accidents can result in horrible traumas. These can be physically, financially, mentally and emotionally draining. A lot of people may not realize they're going through trauma. The ones who do, feel ashamed about getting help.

Professional help is important to keep you stable after any traumatic event. If you or a loved one is suffering, connect with our registered and expert counsellor to get the help you need.

Laurent Pinci
Laurent Pinci
Pillars of Wellness is a truly Integrated Healthcare Centre providing a high degree of collaboration and communication among health providers.