Close this search box.

How to Diagnose and Treat PTSD After a Car Accident

How to Diagnose and Treat PTSD After a Car Accident

A serious car accident can be a stressful and traumatic experience. Most people focus only on diagnosing and treating physical injuries following a collision. While it’s important to cure both mild and serious injuries, there are other psychological issues that must be addressed, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after a car accident.

Neurodiagnostics Medical P.C. treats more than just physical injuries following a car accident. We also diagnose and treat mental illnesses following a motor vehicle collision, PTSD being one common condition. 

If you have been in a car crash, our team can evaluate you for PTSD during your post-accident assessments. Suppose you start to notice PTSD symptoms after a car accident. We encourage you to schedule an appointment with us. Read on to learn more about the symptoms and diagnosis to better understand what to expect. 

Symptoms of PTSD After an Accident Versus Typical Reactions

Symptoms of PTSD After an Accident Versus Typical ReactionsIt is completely normal for people to replay motor vehicle accidents in their minds. It’s understandable to be in shock and angry about an accident in the days following a traumatic event. Normally, these thoughts fade away over time.

For reference, it is common to feel: 

  • Shock
  • Anger
  • Worry or anxiety
  • Uneasiness or fear
  • Guilt
  • Difficulty believing it happened

If these feelings fade away or dissipate at some point, you may not suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder. 

In contrast, you may need to consider being evaluated for PTSD if these feelings don’t seem to fade through time. A person with PTSD will have these strong feelings that not only stay a long time but also interfere with daily life. 

The following are some of the more specific post-traumatic stress reactions and symptoms to look out for after a car accident. You will notice that they indicate a longer duration and a lasting effect on your life. 

  • Anxiety about riding in cars or driving
  • Depression 
  • Ongoing general uneasiness
  • Excessive anger or worry
  • Irritability and feeling on edge
  • Changes in concentration
  • Increased startle response 
  • Struggling to experience positive emotions 
  • Feeling less interested in things you previously enjoyed 
  • Refusing to have diagnostic tests or procedures
  • Difficulty sleeping or nightmares 
  • Feeling disconnected from other people or events
  • Loneliness and social isolation
  • Numbness 
  • Fear and mistrust
  • Hypervigilance 
  • Headaches 
  • Guilt 
  • Continued and uncontrolled memories of the accident 
  • Flashbacks of being in a stressful situation, complete with anxiety, dissociation, and distress 
  • Self-destructive behavior

Your Perception of the Accident Matters More Than the Severity of the Accident

Your Perception of the Accident Matters More Than the Severity of the AccidentRemember that any accident can cause PTSD. many car accident victims mistakenly believe that a motor vehicle accident will only lead to PTSD if death or serious injury is involved, but that is not the case. Everyone has different reactions, and trauma from the past can affect a person’s propensity to develop PTSD. 

Research indicates that the severity of the accident is not the only factor that determines whether or not you develop PTSD. An individual’s perception of and reaction to the accident determine it. Research from 2012 states that the biggest indicator of developing PTSD is the general feeling that your life is in danger.

Triggers of PTSD

If you have PTSD, or a related condition like acute stress disorder (ASD) after a car accident, you may not experience the above symptoms all the time. Rather, they are likely to be triggered by things that remind you of the accident. The following are common triggers for PTSD from car accidents. 

  • Picking up your car keys
  • Getting in the driver’s seat 
  • Driving
  • Riding in a car as a passenger
  • High-volume traffic 
  • Driving where the accident took place 
  • Smells of gas, fire, or smoke
  • Hearing sirens from a fire truck or ambulance
  • Seeing EMTs, firemen, or other first responders

How to Diagnose PTSD After a Car Accident

How to Diagnose PTSD After a Car AccidentDiagnosing PTSD after a car accident is based on the above list of symptoms. Your doctor will evaluate your emotional health and identify which symptoms you are experiencing. They may also consider your risk factors, although your symptoms will be more important than risk factors. 

Risk Factors for PTSD

The following are risk factors that may increase your chance of developing PTSD, especially after a car accident: 

  • Family history of psychopathology
  • Personal history of prior trauma 
  • Previous psychological adjustment problems 
  • High emotional levels immediately after or during the accident (such as guilt, horror, helplessness, fear, or shame)
  • Dissociation immediately after or during the accident 
  • Not enough social support after the accident 
  • Perception of a threat to your life (or the lives of others) 

Treating Car Accident PTSD

Treating Car Accident PTSDThe process of how to treat PTSD after a motor vehicle collision in New York City will involve a combination of professional assistance and steps you can take yourself.

Talk to a Counselor or Even Friends and Family

It can help to talk about the accident and how it made you feel. You should also discuss how you felt during and immediately after the accident, as well as the following days. 

This type of supportive talk therapy is incredibly important following an accident that may cause PTSD or other strong emotional responses. That is because the trauma from the accident may affect how you see yourself, your worldview, or your feelings of safety. 

With the help of therapy, you can start to make sense of the collision. You can also regain feelings of control over your life and create a healthy sense of self. 

Some types of professional therapy for treating PTSD from a car accident include: 

  • Supportive therapy: With this therapy, you talk about your feelings with a trained mental health professional. They help you process your feelings and understand why you have them. The therapist also helps you learn new coping methods. 
  • Acceptance and commitment therapy: This therapy, abbreviated ACT, helps you reduce avoidance behavior. Instead, it encourages you to face your emotions. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral TherapyCBT, or cognitive behavioral therapy, is among the most common methods for treating PTSD after car accidents. This therapy aims to change the relationship between your behaviors, thoughts, and feelings. It essentially tries to break connections you’ve made between certain events or situations, which trigger emotions or behaviors. This treatment can calm you and reduce your anxiety. 

Cognitive Processing Therapy 

Cognitive processing therapy is a specific type of CBT. Its goal is to change how you behave, think, and feel. 

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy 

This therapy, called DBT, teaches you skills that you can use to cope with and manage your emotional distress. 

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

With this treatment, you learn to reprocess how you experience memories from the car accident. It involves recalling the accident with bilateral stimulation. Bilateral stimulation involves holding buzzers in your hands or using your eyes to track light as it moves. Most patients feel less traumatized or triggered by the memory following EMDR. 

Exposure Therapy

Your doctor may suggest exposure therapy to help you overcome your PTSD. With this therapy, you confront the cause of the PTSD in a controlled environment. That controlled setting means that you have immediate access to help and tools to guide you through the experience. 

Anti-anxiety Medicine

In many cases, medicine will play a role in treating PTSD after a car accident. Anti-anxiety medicines, in particular, can help reduce stress from the condition. The caveat here is that many anti-anxiety meds have a high risk of addiction. As such, your doctor will typically suggest this as a temporary measure while you work on treating the PTSD in other more sustainable ways. 


Another medicine commonly used to treat PTSD is selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). These are antidepressants and can help reduce anxiety as well as depression. 

Medicines to Help With Sleep

Your doctor may also give you a prescription to help you sleep if insomnia is one of the symptoms of your PTSD. 

Staying Active

You can have yourself evaluated following a car accident by medical experts from our clinic in Bronx, Staten Island, Queens, Manhattan, or Brooklyn. Ask what type of safe activities and exercises you can do, and make it a point to stay active for your overall well-being. 

Just be mindful that you can be active without provoking or worsening injuries from the accident, hence the need to consult a doctor first. 

Learn Defensive Driving

Learning how to become a defensive driver may give you more confidence behind the wheel. This may be a good way to overcome some of the symptoms of PTSD and give you confidence in the steps you are taking to improve. 

Try to Return to Your Daily Routine

If you are dealing with PTSD after a car accident, you may struggle with returning to your normal daily activities. Bear in mind that as you slowly return to your regular schedule, you are making progress even if it makes you uncomfortable. 

Mindfulness Techniques

Many people dealing with PTSD will find some relief from anxiety, depression, and fear by using mindfulness techniques. These include meditation, muscle relaxation techniques, deep breathing, and yoga. 

Be Patient

It is natural to want to overcome PTSD as quickly as possible, but you need to be realistic about your recovery. Give yourself time, both emotionally and physically. Ask your doctor to help you set realistic expectations, and most of all, be patient with your slow progress.

Your Treatment Adapts to You

It is important to work with medical professionals who will adapt certain treatments to your needs. Everyone is unique, and there are a lot of variations within PTSD following a car accident. Getting the right treatment from one of our clinics in New York City will address how PTSD affects you and numerous other factors. 

Advantages of Visiting Neurodiagnostics Medical P.C.

Advantages of Visiting Neuro Injury Care InstituteIf you live in the Bronx, Staten Island, Manhattan, Brooklyn, or Queens, and you suspect that you have PTSD after a car accident, Neurodiagnostics Medical P.C. is here to assist you. Choosing to work with our medical professionals will give you several advantages.

The Center’s Philosophy 

At the Neurodiagnostics Medical P.C., we always put our patients first. One way we show this is by providing completely free diagnostic evaluations for patients with injuries. We can prevent permanent injuries by identifying and treating issues as early as possible. 

Expertise of the Doctors

At Neurodiagnostics Medical P.C., your healthcare is in the hands of an experienced medical team. Dr. Malhotra, the neurologist on the team, has decades of experience in neurology and has treated various medical conditions related to injuries. 

Treat PTSD and Physical Injuries in One Place

Getting treatment at Neurodiagnostics Medical P.C. enables you to address both your physical and emotional injuries from the car accident. We specialize in treating physical injuries, as well as treating PTSD. 

This helps you streamline your healthcare initiatives. You can schedule appointments for varying issues back-to-back, which helps save on time and money spent on transportation. 

Regardless of the location of our clinic or care institutes, all our receptionists and support staff will be happy to assist you in whatever type of treatment you have scheduled. You simply have to fill out new patient paperwork once. 

Range of Treatment Options

Because of the expertise of our staff and our ability to treat various conditions, you will have access to a range of treatment options at Neurodiagnostics Medical P.C.. 


PTSD Doctor in New YorkIn addition to physical injuries, car accidents may cause you to develop PTSD. Schedule an appointment at Neurodiagnostics Medical P.C. to diagnose and treat PTSD once you notice its symptoms interfering with your everyday life. You can receive treatment for PTSD and any physical injuries from the accident, all at the same place. We always customize the treatment we give to suit your diagnosis and personal medical history. We accept most insurance plans including no-fault, PIP, and workers’ compensation. 

Call or book an appointment today. Our goal is to help you return to your normal daily life as soon as possible.

About The Author

Picture of Ashwin Malhotra, M.D.

Ashwin Malhotra, M.D.

Ashwin Malhotra, M.D. is a highly respected neurologist based in New York City. With over 20 years of experience in the field of neurology, he has earned a reputation as a leading expert in the diagnosis and treatment of neurological disorders and traumatic brain injuries. In addition to his clinical work, Dr. Malhotra is also a dedicated educator and researcher. He has published numerous articles in peer-reviewed medical journals and has presented his research at national and international conferences.