A vehicle accident is almost always a sudden, violent event. Most people in a serious accident experience pain and suffering as well as property damage to the vehicle, financial challenges and emotional adjustments.

Many people in an accident experience some form of post-traumatic stress disorder. The burden of this disorder takes on many different forms that cover a spectrum from moderately troublesome to devastating.

The consequences of PTSD

The Mayo Clinic describes the many complicated effects of PTSD. Symptoms of this disorder often appear within one month of a triggering event, but may not surface for months or years. Symptoms can disrupt a person’s ability to go about normal daily tasks. Symptoms, which can vary over time from person to person, are often grouped into four categories:

  1. Intrusive memories
  2. Avoidance effects
  3. Negative changes in thinking and mood
  4. Changes in emotional and physical reactions

Each category of symptoms includes a complicated variety of possible manifestations and complications.  These include such problems as having trouble sleeping, having difficulty concentrating and being easily startled or frightened.

The diagnosis of PTSD

A professional diagnosis of PTSD by a psychologist, psychiatrist or social worker must meet specific criteria. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, a person with PTSD experiences all of the following symptoms within one month:

  • At least one re-experiencing symptom
  • At least one avoidance symptom
  • At least two arousal and reactivity symptoms
  • At least two cognition and mood symptoms

After a serious accident, a person should stay alert for possible symptoms of PTSD. Treatments for the disorder often include psychotherapy, medications or both.