Post Traumatic Stress After Car Accident

by Sarah
(St. Louis)

I was a passenger in a "medium" accident, 3 cars on the highway the driver didn't come to a stop in time. We were going ~35 mph they were stopped.

The driver was fine, the other cars were fine, but I had bad whiplash for 2 weeks and still feel the pain on occasion. But the worst part is I'm afraid to be a passenger in a car.

It doesn't matter who is driving. Highways are worse (really just going faster is worse). Normally I'm scared if I feel like the cars in front of us are slowing down and we aren't. or brake lights.

Almost all brake lights scare me. It has only happened once when I was driving but it happens every time I'm in someone else's car.

Is this normal? Will it go away? How long should I wait before I talk to a professional?

I feel silly getting counselling but I don't want to ignore the problem. It has been 4 months.


Hi there, Michelle here...



I am really glad you wrote in. This is a topic I have not yet spent enough time on, but is very common after car accidents. Your reaction to being in a car again is very normal and quite common, and the good news is it does get better over time.

However, there is no reason to try toughing it out waiting for things to feel better when you are in a car. A counselor can work with you to reduce your stress around being a passenger.

You are describing a very real, and strong reaction to being a passenger. The fact is most of us spend hours and hours every week in our cars, there is no reason to spend that time in a state of distress.

It is never silly to reach out and speak to someone after a big stress. There is nothing silly, weak, or wrong about reaching for that help. Post traumatic stress after car accidents is extremely real and is very important to treat. Post traumatic stress can happen after any level of accident.

Car accidents are shocking, painful and traumatic events in our lives. However, because car accidents are so common, we often discount how disruptive they are as events.

So please, get some counseling right away. And I would encourage you to also continue being treated for your whiplash. My guess is that your neck is still very sore and this type of soreness or tightness will also increase your stress. Your neck being in pain is a constant reminder, all day long, that you are and were injured.

It is an automatic feedback loop reminding you constantly of the accident. So more massage therapy to help your neck let go of the pain and tension.

Good luck, I hope this helps. M.

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