Psychological Impacts of Car Accidents

The Psychological Impact of Car Accidents on Children

Anyone can have a negative psychological response to a car accident, but children are especially vulnerable to this outcome. Children are still going through important developmental changes, and any trauma that happens during this stage can cause serious developmental disruption. However, the flip side of that is that children are extremely resilient. When you recognize trauma in children, getting them the help they need can put them in a great position to bounce back.

If your little one has been in a car accident and they’re struggling to recover, you don’t have to go through this alone. Call Peake & Fowler at 803-788-4370 to set up a consultation with our Columbia car accident lawyers.

Immediate Psychological Effects

In the days and weeks following a car accident, you may notice your child working through a number of complex feelings, including fear, denial, guilt, anger, sadness, and confusion. Some children, particularly younger ones, may not be able to verbalize these feelings. Instead, these emotions may come out through their actions and comments:

  • Sleep disturbances: The subconscious works out some of its most complex feelings and emotions during sleep, so it’s normal for sleep disturbances to follow trauma. Your child may be excessively sleepy, struggle to sleep, wake up with night terrors, or have nightmares about the accident.
  • Regressing: Many children start acting younger after a traumatic event. For example, a child who has been potty-trained for years may suddenly have bedwetting accidents or want to use diapers. They may use baby language, want to be rocked to sleep, or otherwise mimic younger children.
  • Obsessing over guilt: Children often view the world through a simple cause-and-effect lens. If they do something bad, something bad happens to them. Because of this, they may think that the car accident happened because of them.
  • Avoiding things that remind them of the accident: They may not want to be in the car, go to the place they were going to when the crash occurred, or even wear the clothes they had on at the time of the accident.

Long-Term Consequences and Concerns

Usually, these effects fade with time. Children grow and learn quickly, and they recover quickly. However, when these symptoms linger in the months after an accident, there could be long-term psychological consequences that require further assistance.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is perhaps the most common long-term issue to come out of car accidents. Watch out for flashbacks, nightmares that don’t fade with time, isolation, and continued avoidance of reminders of the accident. Other long-term issues that may arise include anxiety and depression. These psychological concerns can have a profoundly negative impact on a child’s academic performance, mental health, relationships with loved ones, and ability to interact with the world.

How Children May Cope with Psychological Struggles

Children use many different coping mechanisms to handle the psychological challenges they face. They may look for comfort from their parents and loved ones, manage their emotions and fears through artwork and play, and choose activities that they find calming. This is where some children develop fidgeting habits, including those that can be harmful, such as yanking out hair or hurting themselves.

Support and Guidance

At the first sign of mental health concerns after a car accident, you should seek mental health support for your child. A psychiatrist can perform an initial assessment and come up with a treatment plan. Your child may meet with a conventional pediatric therapist or one who specializes in art or play therapy. At school, your child may meet regularly with a social-emotional teacher or guidance counselor to get the support they need during the day.

Ensure that your child has plenty of trusted adults they can lean on during this time. When they have people they can open up to, they can navigate their struggles with confidence.

Injured in a Car Crash? Call Peake & Fowler

If you and your child have been injured in a car crash, find out if a personal injury settlement can help you get the compensation you need for mental health treatment, other medical care, and your other accident-related losses. Call us at 803-788-4370 or reach out online to schedule a consultation now.