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Being involved in any kind of accident can be a deeply disturbing experience. Whether it is a motor vehicle accident, an accident at work, at home or while playing sport, the impact can potentially be extreme.

We mostly have the sense that the world is a safe place, especially living as we do in a safe country. When an accident occurs the sense of safety can be shattered and replaced with a sense of vulnerability and a feeling of being at ongoing risk.

We often focus on the physical injury associated with accidents however the psychological impact is also important. This can range from some mild anxiety through to Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, depending on the circumstances of the accident and other individual factors.

People can experience a sense being on edge and not being able to cope with normal activities.There can also be anxiety associated with the context of the accident such as being in a car or back at work. More extreme responses include depression, nightmares, panic attacks, flashbacks and ongoing disturbing emotions.

Long periods of physical recovery and constant pain and immobility from severe injuries can add to the distress. Losing connections with friends and colleagues as well as the loss of a daily routine of work and social activity can also have an impact.

Another difficulty associated with accidents can be that people can appear to be OK but may have ongoing pain and continuing psychological distress which others, especially friends and family can’t see and don’t understand. People can also experience guilt, anger, self blame, self esteem issues and much time spent trying to understand why life has treated them unfairly.

Sometimes when people have experienced accidents they can face a long period of recovery and often a lot of time alone. This can lead to very pessimistic thinking, depression and sometimes problems with alcohol or other addictive processes. A long recovery can often create a sense of helplessness and hopelessness. As weeks turn into months there can also be a sense that the experience will never end and that life will never return to normal.

The effect of an accident and all that follows can be experienced as mildly distressing through to severely traumatising. It is important to focus not just on the physical recovery but also the psychological impact of the accident and to recognise that that it is not uncommon for unusual and extreme reactions to be experienced.

Having supportive and understanding friends and family along with some professional psychological support can make a big difference to the process of recovery.

Mitchell Brown


Alpha Psychology & The Resilience Centre

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