Brian White | September 29, 2023 | Car Accidents
Feeling fear and anxiety after a car accident is a natural reaction. Your brain uses these reactions to protect you from harm. You do not even need to suffer physical trauma for your brain to trigger these responses. Your brain will take steps to protect you from mental and emotional harm as well.
But severe fear and anxiety can cripple you. They can force you to change your routine and avoid relatively safe activities. You might even shut yourself off from the outside world and begin to suffer debilitating symptoms like panic attacks and paranoia.
The Source of Anxiety After a Crash
A mentally, emotionally, or physically stressful event causes a reaction in your brain. The acute stress response, which is also called the fight-or-flight response, floods your body with hormones to prepare you to fight against or flee from the perceived threat.
These hormones cause physical changes in your body, including:
- Dilating your pupils
- Releasing glucose into your bloodstream
- Increasing your blood pressure and heart rate
- Speeding up your respiration
- Shutting down digestion and possibly emptying your stomach, bowel, and bladder
With these physical changes, your body has prepared itself to fight or flee threats. In a car accident, this response can save your life. With your pupils dilated, you might spot things you would otherwise miss. And the glucose in your muscles will speed up your reflexes.
After the crash, your brain must decide how to deal with the dangers posed by driving. In many cases, the brain fine-tunes its response process to see driving as a threat, at least temporarily. In other words, the brain seeks to protect you from another crash by triggering the acute stress response whenever you think about driving.
This aversion to driving combines with the physical responses caused by the acute stress response to create the classic symptoms of fear and anxiety.
Whenever you drive or even think about driving, you will experience the following:
- Rapid heartbeat and breathing
In a sense, this response works. You will stop driving to avoid feeling this way. But you also lose the ability to perform the essential task of driving, at least temporarily.
The Relationship Between Anxiety and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) happens when you respond to triggers with the fight-or-flight response. These triggers may or may not pose a threat to you. For example, you may experience anxiety and fear in response to the sound of shattering glass or the smell of gasoline because you heard that sound or smelled that odor during your crash.
PTSD is also characterized by a range of other symptoms that represent your brain’s effort to process what happened and form a response that will protect you.
These symptoms include:
- Angry outbursts
- Despair and depression
- Drug or alcohol use
These symptoms can affect you so severely that they disable you from working or even leaving the house. And certain activities, like driving, may become impossible without help.
Overcoming Your Fear of Driving After a Car Accident
Before you try to treat your fear and anxiety, you should consider seeking professional help. A therapist or counselor can help you process the traumatic event so you can have a more measured and appropriate response.
A mental health professional might use a range of counseling techniques to help you address your fears and anxieties, such as:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy to help you find strategies for addressing your fears
- Exposure therapy to desensitize you from your triggers
- Psychotherapy to identify subconscious causes of your behaviors
A professional can also determine whether medication can help you overcome your fears and anxieties.
Under the supervision of a mental health professional, you can also take small steps toward overcoming your fears, including the following:
Practicing Meditation and Mindfulness
When you feel fearful about driving, you can actively focus on your body and identify how you can calm yourself physically. You can also approach your fears rationally, identifying the reasons your anxieties about driving are disproportionate.
You should not expect your fears and anxieties to disappear overnight. Starting slowly will minimize the risk that you will trigger an acute stress response. More importantly, if you do suffer an anxiety attack, starting slowly will help you avoid another crash.
As a result, try to start your exposure to driving in a parking lot or a quiet street with no traffic. This environment will allow you to take your time without other drivers honking at you or crowding you in traffic.
Adjusting Your Driving Behaviors
Take this opportunity to make substantive changes to improve your safety. Wear your seat belt regularly, slow down, and put your phone away while driving.
In Texas, some of the most common causes of car crashes include:
By changing your driving habits to eliminate these risk factors, you have less to fear while driving.
You need time to overcome your fears and anxieties. Do not rush the process. Rushing could cause even more frustration and anxiety as you fail to meet an accelerated timeline. And if you feel like your progress has stalled, try working with a therapist or counselor.
Who Pays For Therapy and Counseling After a Car Accident in Houston, Texas?
You might feel unable to see a mental health professional if you do not have the money to seek help. Keep in mind that federal law requires health insurance plans to cover mental health. If you have health insurance, consider using it to get help with your fear and anxiety.
Also, if another driver caused your crash, you may have an injury claim against them. The compensation you recover through this claim can cover your therapy and counseling bills. It can also cover anxiety medication.
To recover compensation, you must show that your crash resulted from the other driver’s intentional or negligent actions. To learn about your right to compensation for your mental and emotional injuries, contact an experienced Houston personal injury lawyer.
A Houston Car Accident Attorney Can Assist You After a Collision
If you’ve experienced a car accident in Houston, TX, do not wait to speak with a qualified personal injury lawyer.
An attorney can investigate the cause of your accident, determine the extent of your damages, and fight for your right to receive favorable compensation.
Attorney Brian White Personal Injury Lawyers
3120 Southwest Freeway, Suite 350
Houston, TX 77098
Attorney Brian White Personal Injury Lawyers – East Fwy
11811 East Fwy, Suite 630-06
Houston, TX 77029
Attorney Brian White Personal Injury Lawyers – South Loop
2600 S Loop W, Suite 293
Houston, TX 77054