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Car accidents and adjustment disorder

Know the long-term impacts of a collision on your mental wellbeing

There can be long-term health impacts from a car crash - some that don't immediately show up following the accident. Credit: File photo

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Many Washington area motorists are aware of how car accidents can lead to serious physical injuries and brain trauma. However, they might not realize how collisions might impact their mental health and cause adjustment disorder. Not to be confused with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) that is common after long-term stress triggers, adjustment disorders are a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) that often develop after a single triggering event like a car accident. 

It is not uncommon for victims to experience stress, shock and confusion immediately after their accidents. For many, the mental symptoms gradually fade away with time. However, those suffering from adjustment disorder may experience psychological duress that lingers indefinitely. This condition ultimately alters their ability to function normally and quality of life. 

Adjustment disorder symptoms

Adjustment disorder symptoms can present as behavioral or cognitive. The symptoms usually occur three months after the triggering event and can last several months to years. Common signs of adjustment disorder include the following: 

  • Irrational fear of motor vehicles/driving 
  • Anxiety/depression 
  • Extreme changes in sleeping and eating habits 
  • Destructive/manipulative behaviors 
  • Cognitive issues 
  • Recklessness 
  • Violent behavior 

AJD can cause accident victims to act unusual and avoid social interactions and friends and family. Symptoms that last longer than six months are chronic, whereas short term indications lasting less than six months are acute. 

It is important for car accident victims to realize that not all injuries are initially obvious or serious. There is always the risk of psychological trauma in car accidents. Everyone processes traumatic events differently. The right legal resources can help victims get the medical and psychological treatment and financial compensation they need to recover. You can speak to a PCVA representative to get more information. Call (253) 300-4436, or see


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