Surviving a serious accident or crime, or being witness to such an event, can trigger strong emotional responses. Sometimes, people who have been through traumatic events continue to experience feelings of fear, even though they’re no longer in danger. That’s one of the primary symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, a potentially debilitating condition that can disrupt lives.
The National Institute of Mental Health is engaged in ongoing research about PTSD in an attempt to understand why only some people develop this condition after a traumatic event. But researchers already know several factors that raise the risk of PTSD, such as being injured, seeing other people get hurt or killed, and experiencing additional stress after the event, such as the loss of a loved one, or the loss of a job.
If you are experiencing lingering emotional effects after surviving an accident or crime, we may be able to help. Wapner Newman has been protecting the rights of Pennsylvania and New Jersey citizens for more than 40 years. Call us today to find out what we can do for you: (800) 529-6200.
After a traumatic event, people may feel anxious, irritable, have trouble sleeping, or be easily startled. When those symptoms persist – or emerge unexpectedly, long after the frightening experience – that could be a sign of PTSD.
Other signs that could indicate PTSD include:
- Flashbacks that trigger a physical response, such as trembling or sweating
- Feeling emotionally numb
- Feelings of guilt, depression, hopelessness, or worry
- Avoiding anything that could be a reminder of the experience (such as a car accident survivor avoiding driving, or riding in cars)
- Difficulty remembering the event
- Difficulty concentrating
- Emotional problems, such as being unable to control one’s anger.
In children, PTSD symptoms can be harder to detect, because children may not know how to describe what they’re feeling. According to the Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety at University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, children with PTSD may lose interest in normal activities and develop a belief that they won’t live to adulthood. They may initially have nightmares about the traumatic event, but those dreams usually evolve into generalized dreams about monsters and other threats. Children may also experience unexplained physical ailments and use toys to act out the traumatic event.
The anxiety study center at Perelman found several factors that are known to make PTSD more likely, including:
- An event caused by a human, rather than a natural event
- Assault with a sense of betrayal
- Events that are unexpected, uncontrollable, or inescapable
- A sense of responsibility for what happened
- The degree of threat, injury, or fear.
Prevalence of PTSD
PTSD was once a condition thought to affect only wartime veterans. Soldiers surrounded by death and violence every day sometimes experienced PTSD years after their combat tours had ended. Now, mental health professionals see symptoms of PTSD among many private citizens.
In 2012, Philadelphia Magazine reported that since 2001, about 18,000 people had been shot and 3,852 had been killed in the city – more than all U.S. military fatalities in the Afghanistan conflict. That means thousands of Philadelphians have witnessed violence in their neighborhoods and could be at risk for PTSD.
Survivors of a traumatic crash or accident may develop PTSD, as may witnesses. So it’s hard to say how many people may be at risk for PTSD, or already suffering from symptoms. Especially with a terrible, large-scale accident – like the derailment of Amtrak 188 in May 2015 – the impact on mental wellness is almost impossible to measure. That accident injured more than 200 people, killed eight people, and created a horrific scene for passengers and onlookers.
The Impact of Trauma
People seriously injured or killed in accidents or by a criminal act aren’t the only victims. Their families may experience severe and long-lasting emotional suffering. Friends who were present at the time of the traumatic event may feel a profound sense of guilt at being unable to stop it from happening, or being unable to help the victim. Witnesses may struggle with persistent mental images of the accident or the crime they saw.
Wapner Newman can help people injured by another party’s negligent or deliberate actions. We also understand how to help people who have suffered emotional trauma, regardless of whether they witnessed or experienced a frightening event. Our goal is to make sure people who have been through a traumatic ordeal have the resources they need to put their lives back together. Schedule your no-obligation consultation by calling our toll-free number, (800) 529-6200, or filling out our online form.