Car accidents change lives, but in different ways for different people. Even if you're not physically hurt, you may have sustained psychological or "invisible" injuries that can destroy life as you know it. Here's how to understand what's happened, so you can cope with it effectively.
What These Invisible Injuries Are And How They Change Your Ability To Function
From the outside, you look completely normal and no differently than you did before the event, yet on the inside, it's a completely different situation. Your ability to conduct yourself under the most ordinary circumstances may have profoundly changed.
The traumatic event itself is not what determines a possible psychological condition, but rather, how a person responds to it. Two people could undergo the same trauma, yet one emerges completely unscathed while the other goes on to develop permanent anxiety. There is no way to predict how an experience will or will not change someone.
If you have sustained a psychological or invisible injury, your ability to react under stress will be dramatically different. Under normal circumstances, stress alters the function of your nervous system, but only temporarily. You might feel nauseous, have the shakes and tend to panic for a short period of time or until the source of stress is resolved or gone. However, when you've been psychologically injured or traumatized, the symptoms associated with stress do not subside and your reaction to the situation may seem grossly exaggerated. When you're suffering with traumatic stress, the following changes will likely be present in your personality:
- You now react more quickly to stressful experiences.
- You now are stressed out more often, perhaps feeling so most or all of the time.
- The stress feels more threatening, even triggering your "fight or flight" reflex.
- Your stress lingers much longer, particularly in comparison to how you formerly handled things.
- You feel unable to reassure yourself and calm yourself down to a normal state.
You might have temporary depression or permanent anxiety, such as PSTD. You could also be diagnosed with Adjustment Disorder, which, while temporary, is enough to turn your life upside down at work and with personal relationships, because it changes how you react and cope. Unfortunately, these invisible injuries are not universal and clear cut the way a fractured femur or skull would be. You (and medical professionals) simply have no way of predicting how an event will alter your psyche.
Recognizing The Symptoms Of Psychological Injury
If you had sustained a broken neck in an accident, for example, proving the injury itself and how it impacted your ability to work might be cut and dry for an attorney, but while psychological pain and suffering isn't as simple a case, it's nonetheless equally as important to you as a victim. Psychological pain and injury can cause you to miss work the same way a broken neck can, but unlike marred bones that show up in an X-Ray, your psyche doesn't reveal itself so clearly. Therefore, it's essential that you are honest with yourself and others about what you're feeling and experiencing.
Treatment is needed (the same way it is with broken bones) right away, to ensure a healthy resumption of life. Left untreated, though, your life can fall apart. Be aware of the classical symptoms, talk about them with the people in your immediate life (partner, siblings, children, supervisor and most importantly, a doctor) and be proactive in addressing them. They could be one or more of the following in any given combination:
- Changes in eating.
- Problems sleeping.
- Loss of interest in personal and romantic relationships.
- Loss of energy.
- Frequent, inexplicable pain not associated with a "real" injury.
- Chronic depression and despair.
- Anxiety at any level that is different than before the accident or incident.
- Attacks of panic, which inhibit your ability to function and interact.
- New fears and phobic tendencies.
- Feeling powerless and like you've lost control.
- Having a new and unpredictable temper, when anger was not formerly an issue for you.
- Changes in memory, which may include the accident or traumatic incident.
- Being unable to make simple decisions and to focus on tasks.
Invisible injuries impact your ability to earn a living, engage in normal, healthy relationships and to take care of yourself and others the way you use to as much and sometimes more so than physical injuries.
Addressing Your Invisible Injuries Legally
While the psychological trauma associated with a violent accident may not be as visible or obvious as a missing or broken limb, the law does acknowledge psychological injuries as real. What this means to you is that you are eligible for compensation to help you get through, even if your symptoms will eventually disappear, such as with Adjustment Disorder.
Following an accident in which you have no physical injuries, however, you might be inclined to shake the incident off, thinking you don't need a lawyer or other assistance. This reflex is natural, since you're grateful to be seemingly unscathed and looking to move forward, but it's essential to your future to talk with a lawyer, discover your options and to keep them open until you're fully aware of how you have been affected by the situation.
Nobody really knows the consequences of a traumatic event until they begin to unfold. Maybe you will be able to cope on your own, but if not, you're going to need help. Avail yourself of it from the onset, and speak with an auto accident attorney now.