Often when driving, we understand that there are dangers - in an abstract way - but when we are in a car accident, we fully comprehend the fragility of life, and how close an accident can bring us to the end. It can be an unnerving feeling and often - very naturally - leads to anxiety after the accident. Some drivers feel they are physically unable to drive again. Others feel survivor guilt if another party dies in the accident, even if it was that other person’s fault. No matter the reason for anxiety, here are our tips on how to get over driving anxiety after an accident.
Write Down What Happened
Writing can often be a form of therapy for those who are in car accidents. Since in order to document what happened, you’ll have to write your account, it may be a way to begin the healing process. Write down exactly what happened in the car accident, and note every detail you recall.
In your personal account, you can write down your fears, what scared you about it - was it being confused? Was it, perhaps, being trapped in the car and panicking and emergency services had to cut you out? Was it to see your own blood? Was it just the shock of it all? Write down the facts and feelings to help you work through what exactly has you afraid. Were you afraid that you will harm your family or someone else when driving? Writing can help you heal.
Furthermore, when things first happen to us, the details may be jumbled, but writing them down makes sense of them, and placing details in chronological order can help you deal with the trauma and emotion of it all. Continue to write about the accident until the details are no longer upsetting.
Talk to Family and Friends
Just as writing can help you heal, talking to family and friends can too. When speaking to loved ones, be sure to frame the event by noting how you survived and are now safe. Friends and family are often willing to discuss events with you, or simply listen and provide a shoulder to cry on.
See a Psychotherapist
Therapy is one of the best ways to get over trauma-related anxiety. Often a therapist will use cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which notes that thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, and actions are interconnected - and negative thoughts and feelings can trap someone in a vicious cycle. CBT allows you to face problems by breaking them down into smaller parts, and you will be shown how to change negative patterns and thoughts. CBT deals with current problems and current trauma instead of past trauma.
Take a Defensive Driving Course
Anxiety can be overcome by becoming a better, more-skilled driver. It’s a good idea after an accident to take a defensive driving course. These courses often allow drivers to feel a sense of control, and ability to take charge being the wheel. Even if you were not responsible for the accident, it’s a good idea to learn better driving skills for the future, and being back behind the wheel without negative experiences is also a step to recovery. Defensive driving courses teach the driver how to recognize and analyze developing hazards that could be dangerous, and teach proactive measures to minimize risk.
Hypnotherapy is one of those scientific gray areas. Many experts agree that hypnotherapy does work with some saying that it’s more of a relaxation technique and others saying that it relies on placebo effect; either way, hypnosis and guided meditation can resolve anxiety from traumatic episodes in as few as three sessions.
Medication can sometimes reduce the impact of anxiety. Many therapists prefer other long-term methods; however, at first, medication may help, especially when used in conjunction with behavioral therapy. Two common drugs are beta blockers and sedatives. Beta-blockers block the effects of adrenaline like increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, shaking, and a pounding heart. Sedatives help patients relax, reducing the anxiety felt. Sedatives can cause drowsiness and carry a risk of dependence so they aren’t always the best choice, especially if you plan to go back on the road.
Drive with Another Driver
Before you venture out on the road by yourself, try driving with a trusted, experienced driver in the passenger seat. Having someone nearby can help alleviate your fears and reassure you that things will be okay. Have a passenger whenever possible for the first few times you drive. Talk through your experience as facing your fears is a big step.
Following the accident, start by taking small car journeys at first. Don’t make big journeys or re-visit the crash site immediately; although, at some point it’s a good idea to revisit the area - and survive it - to get past all of the associated trauma. Go for small drives and work up to longer, more vital ones - such as going to work and school - but allot double time for these journeys at first. For example, if your commute is half an hour, allot one hour for the drive. That way you can drive slowly, you can pull over to catch your breath if you need, or you can plan alternative routes on smaller roads at first. Take small steps in the right direction until you resume your old (yet safer) driving habits. You can never control what other drivers do on the road - their unpredictability and dangerous habits - but you can take small steps to facing your fears.
Follow these tips to help you get back behind the wheel without anxiety. Share in the comments ways you’ve gotten over your anxiety after an accident.
Have you been in a car accident and still can’t get over the anxiety?
Did you know that the costs of an accident aren’t just the cost of repairing your car or fixing your broken arm? There can be emotional costs too and you can be compensated for them - from time out of work to therapy to child care. Contact a personal injury attorney today to discuss your case.
Disclaimer: This blog is intended as general information purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Anyone with a legal problem should consult a lawyer immediately.