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Is It Normal To Feel Depressed After A Car Accident?

Is It Normal To Feel Depressed After A Car Accident?What You Need To Know!

A car accident can be a traumatic event that leaves physical and mental scars on anyone involved. Even if you were not physically injured, or not injured severely, in the crash, you may still suffer mentally and psychologically. Is it normal to feel depressed after a car accident? Yes, one common symptom that many suffer from following an accident is depression. If you’ve been in a car accident and you are feeling depressed, know that you are not alone. In this article, we will explore how car accidents can affect you, the possible reasons for depression after an accident, the different types of depression, and provide you with some resources for help.

What Happens To Your Body And Brain After A Crash

When you are involved in a car crash you will likely experience a sudden jolt. This then triggers the release of adrenaline, cortisol, and other stress hormones. The release of these hormones can cause physical symptoms like increased heart rate, sweating, and rapid breathing. When the brain experiences trauma, you may experience emotional responses like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, or depression.

How Crashes Affect Your Body

When you are involved in a car crash, your body releases adrenaline, this is known as your body’s fight or flight response. “Typically, if we are startled or scared due to an event, our brains can switch from survival mode to restorative mode, eventually relaxing us,” note car accident lawyers at Harris & Harris Injury Lawyers, “if the event is traumatic enough, the brain doesn’t switch out of survival mode, causing the survivor to stay in that ‘fight or flight’ survival mode.”

The “flight or flight” mode causes your blood vessels and air passages to dilate, increasing the amount of blood flow to muscles and oxygen to the lungs to help boost your physical performance. This type of response essentially gives you quick spurts of energy so that you can react quickly in perceived life-or-death situations.

Side effects of adrenaline may include:

  • Tunnel vision
  • Limited hearing
  • Feeling little to no pain
  • Heightened senses
  • Sudden energy boosts
  • Memory loss

After an adrenaline surge, you may feel almost the opposite of how you felt during the adrenaline dump. You may:

  • Feel weak or shaky
  • Faint
  • Feel intense emotion, often manifested as crying

Along with the fight or flight response in your body during a car crash, you may also experience very real, physical injuries. Because of the adrenaline rush at the time of the crash, you may not feel injuries right away, however, it is very important to always be checked out by a medical professional after you’ve been in any type of crash. Even with treatment, injuries may cause long-lasting chronic pain, but seeking medical care can help you understand and deal with the injuries and pain.

Some physical injuries victims may sustain from car crashes include:

  • Concussion
  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
  • Whiplash or other neck injuries
  • Internal Bleeding
  • Spinal injuries

Related Article: How To Get Over My Fear Of Driving

How Crashes Affect Your Brain

Car accidents are scary. Even if you are not physically hurt, your brain will still interpret the event as catastrophic so that you may respond to it accordingly. This can create mental trauma and may manifest in many different ways.

After the accident you may experience:

Mood Swings

When you think about the accident, or what you saw and experienced, you may feel sadness, anger, guilt, or grief. These mood swings may be triggered by sounds, environment, memories, or other things.

Difficulty Sleeping/Insomnia

After an accident, your brain is flooded with neurochemicals to help you stay awake. However, this can disturb your sleep cycle making it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep, and you may experience bad dreams. You may also experience flashbacks and other troubling thoughts related to the accident while you are winding down at night, which can contribute to difficulty sleeping.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

You may experience symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder after your car crash. This may cause you to overthink situations, imagine worst-case scenarios, and feel as if you are in a constant state of worry or fear. This may cause you to not want to drive at all for a period of time due to anxiousness, or you may feel increased feelings of anxiety driving near the location the accident occurred.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD is an anxiety disorder that is often caused by a traumatic event involving actual or possible death or serious injury to yourself or others. You may experience one or all of the symptoms listed above if you have PTSD. Additionally, PTSD anxiety can manifest as:

  • Intrusive thoughts about the accident
  • Distressing dreams of the accident
  • Reluctance or refusal to drive again
  • Coping by avoiding thinking about the accident at all
  • Dissociation or feeling detached
  • Being easily startled
  • Panic attacks
  • Irritation
  • Trouble sleeping


Unfortunately, depression is not uncommon after motor vehicle accidents. Depression is a medical illness that can have effects on both your body and mind. This may be a result of the trauma and stress that many experience after an accident. Physical pain and disability, temporary or permanent, may also cause depression.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-occurring disorders are any combination of two or more mental health disorders experienced at the same time. After a car accident, co-occurring disorders crash victims may experience include:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • PTSD and anxiety
  • Depression and PTSD

Depression – What Is It & How Does It Play A Role In Car Accidents

Depression is one of the most common mental health issues people experience that causes emotional distress. According to the American Psychiatric Association, depression is “a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think, and how you act.”

Types of Depression

Depression is a serious mental illness. There are several different types of depression that car accident victims may experience.

Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) –Major depressive disorder is characterized by feeling persistently depressed, and experiencing long-term loss of pleasure or interest in life. It can affect how you think, feel, and act, and may lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems.

Persistent Depressive Disorder – Persistent depressive disorder is depression that lasts two years or more. This type of depression can be persistent, low-grade depression, or chronic major depression.

Bipolar Disorder/Manic Depression – Bipolar disorder, sometimes also called manic depression, is characterized by mood swing episodes that oscillate between extreme highs and extreme lows. The low mood phases can cause symptoms of depression. This type of depression can be heightened by a car accident if you’ve previously been diagnosed with it. However, a car accident may also cause bipolar disorder due to traumatic brain injury.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – Seasonal affective disorder is a period of major depression one experiences, most often during the winter season.

Psychotic Depression – Psychotic depression is both major depression and the symptoms that come along with it, combined with “psychotic” symptoms like hallucinations, extreme delusions, and excessive paranoia.

Atypical Depression – Atypical depression is characterized by a specific pattern of depressive symptoms. With this type of depression, you may not experience the persistent sadness of major depression, and your mood may be temporarily improved by positive external factors.

19 Symptoms of Depression You Need To Look Out For

Depression symptoms can look different for each person, but common, possible symptoms can include:

  1. Weight loss or gain
  2. Eating disorders
  3. Trouble falling asleep
  4. Difficulty concentrating
  5. Poor sleep quality
  6. Feeling restless or agitated
  7. Feel anxious or distressed
  8. Persistent anxiety
  9. Sleep disorders
  10. Feeling sluggish (mentally or physically)
  11. Feeling tired
  12. Delusions
  13. Low energy
  14. Agitated
  15. Paranoia
  16. Feeling worthless or guilty
  17. Trouble concentrating
  18. Low-self esteem
  19. Suicidal thoughts

Treatments for Depression

Treatments for depression can vary depending on the person, preference, and type of depression. It is important that you seek advice and guidance from your doctor when treating your depression. You may be able to combine several approaches.

Some common treatment options include:

Psychological Treatment

Your doctor may recommend therapy as a treatment for depression. In fact, there are several different treatments you may choose from to get help from mental health professionals.

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – This approach combines both cognitive and behavioral therapy to identify negative thought patterns and break these patterns bit by bit to help you feel better about yourself. It helps to change how you think and act.
  • Psychoanalytic Therapy – This type of therapy is based on the belief that unresolved, and unconscious conflicts can lead to depression. The goal is to identify and work through these issues by sharing personal stories and identifying unresolved issues that may be holding you back or causing some of your mental health issues.

There are also different types of therapeutic programs you may want to enroll in such as a residential treatment center. There, you would live for a period of time at a treatment center with others going through the same program as you.

You may also choose an outpatient program. This type of program is more like attending work or school, you attend for a few hours, and go home at the end of each day.


You may want to try medication in addition to therapy when treating depression. Your doctor or therapist may prescribe you antidepressants. Antidepressants can have a mood-lifting effect on you and can help to increase motivation. However, it may take time to see results.

Additionally, antidepressants can have undesirable side effects, ranging from dry mouth to weight gain, to thoughts of suicide. It is important to monitor your mood and how the medication is affecting you and communicate that with your doctor or therapist.

If a medication is not working for you, be sure to let someone know, if your prescription is left unchanged, it can worsen your symptoms and harm you more in the long run. If one medication doesn’t work well for you, you may be able to try a different one under the guidance of your doctor or mental health professional.

Can I Recover Compensation For My Depression From A Car Accident?

If you were involved in a motor vehicle accident and suffered from depression as a result, you may be eligible for compensation. Your first step to recovering compensation should be to hire a personal injury lawyer who is experienced in handling motor vehicle collision claims and understands the process.

With the help of a personal injury attorney, you can file a personal injury claim for depression. Working with experienced injury lawyers can help you to determine what caused your traffic accident and what compensation you can file a claim for.

Experienced car accident attorneys can help you file a claim for:

  • Anxiety, depression, PTSD, and other mental health issues caused by car accidents
  • Catastrophic injury
  • Wrongful death

Types of accidents you may be able to file a depression claim for:

  • Car accidents
  • Motorcycle accidents
  • Trucking accidents
  • Rideshare accidents
  • Pedestrian accidents
  • Bus accidents
  • Bicycle accidents

Some accidents can be more severe than others. For example, trucking accidents often cause more severe injuries, than say a slip and fall pedestrian accident might cause, because of the large size and weight of the truck. Similarly, motorcycle accidents can cause more serious injuries to the rider than to the driver of a car because motorcycles have less protection than a car.

What Types Of Compensation Can You Receive?

After a motor vehicle collision, you may be eligible for both economic and non-economic damages. Skilled personal injury lawyers can help you negotiate to get compensation for both types of damages.

Economic damages cover losses that can be calculated easily. These losses include expenses such as:

  • Medical expenses (which can include the cost of therapy and medication for depression)
  • Lost wages and future earning
  • And other out-of-pocket expenses directly related to the accident

Non-economic damages cover losses that are not easily calculated and do not have an explicit monetary value. This can include compensation for:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional anguish (like depression)Diminished quality of life
  • Loss of consortium
  • Disabilities and impairments

Your car accident lawyer can leverage both of these types of damages to help you win compensation for the depression and other mental health issues you have experienced due to the motor vehicle accident you were in.

Take Preventative Measures

One thing you can do to preemptively help yourself in case of an accident is to have a dashcam hooked up in your vehicle. A dashcam will record video evidence when you are in a crash, which can be used in court to help you prove your case and win compensation.

Resources for Depression After a Car Accident

If you are suffering from depression following an auto accident, please know that you are not alone. There is hope, and you can seek treatment. In addition to the resources listed below, be sure to contact your healthcare provider for a list of mental health care they may cover.

  1. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
  2. National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
  3. Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA)
  4. 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline
  5. List of resources for men
  6. Resources for women


Who Can I Talk to About Depression From A Car Accident?

When you experience depression due to car accidents, you may want to talk to someone about it. Some people you can talk to include:

  • A mental health professional, such as a licensed therapist
  • A support group
  • Your doctor
How Likely Am I To Get In Another Car Accident?

According to the car insurance industry, the average driver files a collision claim once every 18 years. You can help yourself avoid possible car accidents by:

  • Driving the speed limit
  • Not driving under the influence
  • Paying attention to the road and your surroundings
Will My Insurance Cover My Therapy?

Many insurance companies offer some form of mental health coverage, however, there may be some that don’t. To find out if your insurance covers therapy, contact them directly. If your insurance does not cover therapy, you may be able to find an affordable alternative by contacting SAMHSA.

SAMHSA has a confidential, free national helpline that provides information, and referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations that may be able to help you.

Joy Nguyen
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