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Can a car accident cause post-traumatic stress disorder?

When it comes to injuries sustained in Pennsylvania car accidents, you may think primarily in terms of physical harm. It goes without saying that a roadway collision can affect your physical health, but you may not realize that it can also affect your mental condition. People who appear outwardly unhurt after a crash may suffer the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder as a result. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, exposure to a terrifying or disturbing event, or series of events, can cause PTSD. People often associate the condition with members of the military, so much so that it used to go by the names of "battle fatigue" or "shell shock." Armed conflict is one possible cause of PTSD, but not the only one. Other potential triggers include child abuse, physical assault, sexual violence and an accident such as a motor vehicle collision. Any event that causes or threatens serious injury, sexual violation or death has the potential to cause PTSD. 

You do not have to experience the trauma directly to develop PTSD; witnessing the event may be sufficient. Theoretically, this means that if you witnessed a particularly gruesome car accident, you could end up with PTSD even if you were not involved in the collision yourself. Both prolonged exposure to trauma and one-time traumatic events have the potential to cause PTSD. 

Developing PTSD after a traumatic event is not a foregone conclusion. Some people experience no adverse mental effects after a trauma. It is not entirely clear why some people develop PTSD and some do not, although a personal or family history of mental health issues may predispose you to the condition. 

Symptoms of PTSD are complex, but they include nightmares, flashbacks, anxiety, depression, hopelessness, avoidance, detachment, social withdrawal, memory problems and negative thoughts. If you experience symptoms like these after a car accident or any traumatic event, you should seek help as soon as possible. PTSD is a treatable condition. 

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only. 

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