While no one on the road plans to get into a car accident, circumstances happen such as bad weather conditions, distracted driving, failure to check blind spots – and accidents happen. During any traumatic or frightening event, our survival instincts are to fight or flee. In a car accident situation, neither the fight or flight response is a very good idea, so our body instead tends to do nothing and shuts down temporarily, essentially leaving us frozen and stunned.
Trying to function after a car accident may feel a little like operating on auto-pilot, you go through the motions and get all the “responsible stuff” done, such as reporting, calling authorities, exchanging information, but then what happens? In the days after, your anxiety, anger, sadness may still exist or begin to flare up again.
You don’t have to be physically injured in an accident to be angry.
A common misconception that only the drivers involved (or injured) in a car accident will be affected. In reality that is not the case. Whether you were the driver at fault, victim, passenger, pedestrian or accident witness, you may also experience trauma and/or post traumatic stress.
This potent mix of anxiety, anger and emotions may also affect eating and sleeping patterns, which can enhance feelings of anger. This anger may also stem from a form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which is an anxiety disorder that can develop after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event, or learning that a traumatic event has happened to a loved one.
‘Traumatic event’ is defined as exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence – such as being involved, or witnessing, a car accident. PTSD is known to cause flashbacks, irritability, anger, depression, and confusion.
While injuries can be seen, anger and PTSD are invisible to the naked eye, you can’t put a cast around your emotions, hoping to heal within a few weeks. There is no exact formula for dealing with anger and mixed emotions, as the effects differ depending on the individual. So, how then are you supposed to get over the anger you feel at the other driver, passenger, pedestrian or perhaps even yourself?
Your feelings are completely normal.
Understanding that it’s ok to be angry can be very helpful in learning how to let go of any stressful, angry emotions. You have experienced a traumatic event, which can have both psychological and cognitive effects. Our anger and emotions are simply our brain’s way of processing a very frightening event while attempting to come to terms with it.
For some accident victims, such as with cases of long-term disability injuries or death, this anger may seem insurmountable. This absolutely does not have to be the case! The most important factor in recovering from accident related trauma is recognizing you are having a problem so you can get help.
It’s very important to deal with these feelings of anger constructively (no “quick fixes” such as drugs or alcohol which can lead to further negative emotions or depression), and in a way that makes the most sense for you. Listed below are a few suggestions for healthy, constructive ways to “vent” your frustrations and release any residual anger.
Be honest with yourself and others about your anger.
Don’t bottle it all up! Human nature and pride encourage us to be strong for those around us, so many of us hide, or bury our negative emotions to try and function normally, which may only create further stress and trauma down the road.
Confide in someone you trust and open up about your traumatic experience. It can be a trusted friend, partner, co-worker. It may even end up being the other person(s) involved in the accident with you. Admitting to someone (out loud) that you are experiencing these feelings of stress, anger, sadness is key to releasing negative emotions.
Take a Nature Walk or Exercise
If you are able to (not injured), grab your iPod and hit the gym or talk a nature walk. Surrounding yourself with nature (scenery, fresh air) and exercising have been proven to boost happy feelings (releasing endorphins), which can reduce stress, alleviate anxiety and improve your ability to cope with stress.
Exercise also comes with some other fantastic benefits as well: can improve self-confidence, prevent cognitive decline, boost brainpower, sharpen memory and increases relaxation (ability to relax).
Similarly to enjoying nature and exercising, meditation is also proven to help centre and release toxic and negative emotions. Focusing on our breathing helps our body calm down and release negativity. Meditative breathing centres our core and reminds us that we are present.
Meditation can be especially helpful for those who experience severe anxiety. Focused breathing is often the way to stave off an anxiety attack, and these same breathing techniques can help to keep you “centred”. Relaxing and focus on breathing helps to take your mind off negativity.
Focusing your attention on a hobby you enjoy can also help take your mind off any stress, anger, or sadness you may be experiencing. The act of tending to or creating something is a very powerful form of personal expression which can help you release tension and anger.
Speak to a Professional
Therapy is highly recommended, as it helps to talk to someone who is professionally trained to deal with, and help you learn how to cope with any trauma. This may be traditional or alternative therapy – the choice will be based on your personal preferences.
If you’re looking for a professional you can visit a therapist who specializes in helping people work through their trauma and anger.
Consult a Car Accident Injury Professional
The accident claims process may also increase anxiety, depression and/or feelings of anger. Dealing with insurance companies and trying to prove negligence can be extremely frustrating and stressful, especially when you are not familiar with the process and documentation needed.
Speaking with an injury claims specialist before making a personal injury claim (or repealing a denied accident claim) can lessen some of the stress of the process. They can also help you ensure that all paperwork is submitted accurately and to claim requirements.
You may not have been physically injured, but you can also file a claim for physiological injures – such as post traumatic stress which can lead to job loss, depression, and other debilitating psychological affects.
Read more car accident injury information.