09 Jan Post-accident trauma
By Eleni Papadomarkaki
Psychologist – Psychotherapist
Accidents occur suddenly. In the twinkling of an eye, a person may go through an extreme experience, which may not only deprive them of certain physical abilities, but also kill them. At the same time, the people close to the person involved also experience a trauma, when they find out that their loved one has been or is still in danger or is no longer alive.
Trauma is real.
What is trauma?
Any experience or situation which occurred on a single or multiple occasions, but exceeded the tolerance of one’s body causing shock, fear, embarrassment, shame, sadness, anger towards a stimulus and sometimes towards oneself for not having reacted in a timely or appropriate manner, for having made a wrong decision or for going through a terrible experience through no fault of his/her own may be defined as trauma.
Trauma may be an experience, a piece of news, a direct or indirect loss which can be assessed from its impact such as mental disorganisation, sleeping problems, flash-backs, phobias, sadness, hyperstimulation, anger, new body problems or aggravation of already existing problems (e.g. migraines, gastrointestinal disorders, skin problems, autoimmune diseases) as a result of the natural inability of the body to “cope with” the unusually intense stress.
The usual ways of dealing with trauma
“I have overcome this”; this may be a particularly optimistic statement when it comes to a traumatising event.
“Time heals everything”; time may heal or act neutrally, especially when the person has experienced shock after the trauma.
“Life goes on”; this is a statement commonly addressed to people in case of loss.
All the above statements are based on logic, but not on emotions and can rarely comfort people who do not want or cannot move on.
People may be functional in certain aspects of their lives, but they may feel completely lost and unable to overcome the painful event in others. Their emotional strength is running out, like a vehicle with low or no petrol at all unable to move from one place to another.
Implications of trauma
A trauma caused by an accident may have certain implications that do not allow a person to move on after this unpleasant experience and manage the new reality after a loss. An accident is often followed by hospitalisation, pending financial issues and especially legal compensation procedures. All these create a complicated trauma and hinder the healing process, to the extent that it is possible.
Psychotherapy can help people in their effort to move on after loss. The appropriate time for starting this process depends on every person and on when they feel ready to move on. The choice of the therapist, who should be trained and experienced in loss issues, is really important, so that the processing of trauma and the release from all negative emotions takes place within a safe and supportive environment.