Acknowledging the collision in your mind

Highway accidents occur on two levels - on the road and in your head. The physical injury can be nasty - but what happens emotionally can make it even worse.

If you were seriously injured, you must get to trauma care and have your medical needs addressed. Over time, however, you may have to address these negative feelings:

Shock. A natural response to being in a collision is to go into shock. Shock is one way the body protects itself in emergencies. It can manifest in various ways -- feeling numb, feeling emotionally upset, feeling fear that you are still in danger.

When you react this way, it can be impossible to do all the right things you are supposed to do after an accident - share driver information, talk to witnesses, and so on. It is a blessing if you have an uninjured passenger or good Samaritan to gather information for you while you are in this condition.

Denial. Many accident victims react by pretending they are fine - even when things are not. A false confidence can cause you to skip getting the medical attention you need.

Anger. Sometimes, accidents evolve into yelling matches or even fistfights. This is a sign that your disturbance runs deep. The irritability may continue when you go home.

Shame. Sometimes anger is a mask for feelings of guilt or shame. It is not unusual for drivers to feel the accident was their fault, that it set the family back, that you weren't paying enough attention.

Anxiety. You just survived a near-death experience. Naturally, you are processing the danger you were in, and have feelings of fear that it can happen again at any time. Anxiety may appear as insomnia, withdrawal or inability to think straight.

Depression. Anxiety can draw traumatized individuals into a state of isolation, and even thoughts of suicide. This is a testament to the danger a car accident can cause, weeks or months after the actual collision.

So, are you crazy?

No, you are not. You have been injured, both physically and psychically. You are digesting a traumatic attack on your person, and everyone does this differently.

Think of these feelings as a part of your healing. Be patient with yourself as you sort things out. It's OK to feel vulnerable. Be willing to open up to a counselor or trusted friend about how you feel.

Your feelings may even be compensable. If you have questions, visit with us.

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