What are the possible psychological implications following a motorcycle accident?
Posted by: Carol C Sharp (Psychological Therapist)
According to statistics by the Department of Transport, motorcyclist casualties increased by five per cent to 5,650 for the year ending September 2016, which amounts to more than 15 motorcycle accidents a day*.
We all respond individually and uniquely to traumatic events and, therefore, the impact of a motor vehicle accident is likely to vary enormously from one individual to another. How we cope depends on numerous factors, such as our personality, what else is going on in our life at the time of the accident and if there are any pre-existing medical issues, etc. After any traumatic experience, such as a motorcycle accident, where an individual has incurred physical injuries that require medical intervention, it is quite likely that the psychological impact may not show itself in the immediate aftermath of the incident. Also, psychological symptoms that may be experienced after a traumatic event can still be evident long after the psychical injuries have healed.
Any one of us may be called upon to provide assistance to someone who has been involved in a traumatic incident, witnessed an accident or it may be that we encounter a traumatic incident ourselves. While training and experience may provide some psychological resilience when experiencing or witnessing a life threatening event, none of us are immune to the possible psychological impact of a traumatic experience.
Behaviors to be mindful of, if you or someone close to you, has been involved in an incident and is suffering psychologically.
Not wanting to drive, be a passenger or fearful as a pedestrian. Avoiding the area that the incident took place, loss of interest and a previous passion for motorcycles (for example), avoidant of driving on similar roads to the type of road that the accident took place e.g. motorways, dual carriage ways, inner city driving.
Nervousness as a driver or passenger
Road rage, heightened anxiety, panic attacks, critical of other road users, driving extra cautiously/hesitantly, holding on to the dashboard/door handle, sweating profusely, feeling nauseous, sensory overload.
Changes in personality after an accident
Changes in mood and temperament e.g. anger, aggression, tearfulness, reduced levels of tolerance, numbness, lack of motivation, isolating oneself, loss of interest, withdrawal from people, hobbies, lack of interest in sexual intimacy or any displays of affection.
Drinking, eating, smoking or medication
Increasing use of alcohol, smoking, comfort eating or loss of appetite, reliance on medication / self-medicating.
Experiencing being more clumsy, for example dropping things and breakages.
Many people feel confident enough to get straight back behind the wheel after a traumatic experience. However, be mindful that concentration can be affected after an accident, that you may still be running on adrenaline and your senses may be particularly heightened during this time.
Withdrawing from /avoiding work, family, friends, social situations, relationships and making excuses not to be involved.
Lack of motivation and tiredness
Loss of passion for things that previously would have been enjoyable. Loss of concentration and motivation.
Hyper arousal and hyper vigilance
On red alert, flashbacks, heightened anxiety, startled responses, sensory overload, sleep disturbance, nightmares, not wanting to go to sleep and change of sleep pattern.
Some of the possible physical effects of post-traumatic stress on your body include:
- extreme tiredness or exhaustion after an adrenaline rush
- palpitations of the heart
- rapid respiration
- tremors, shaking and sweating
- gastro-intestinal symptoms
- change in weight (comfort eating or loss of appetite).
All of the above symptoms are normal after an abnormal event, and in the same respect, some or none of these reactions may be experienced.
However, if some of these symptoms persist for more than 4-6 weeks, then it would be helpful to speak to a professional such as your GP or a trauma therapist.
If you are experiencing post-traumatic stress, or notice someone close to you being affected, there are things you can do to help:
- abstain /encourage abstinence from alcohol in the immediate aftermath of a traumatic experience to reduce the likelihood of a longer term dependency
- eat and drink healthily
- exercise within own limitations
- endeavor to get out in the fresh air as much as possible
- rest and relaxation
- seek professional support.
Accept that you have been through a trauma and that you may benefit from some support at some point in dealing with what has happened. Psychological responses, as mentioned above are absolutely normal after an abnormal event.
For more information, please visit: www.carolcsharptherapy.co.uk
* Department for Transport: Reported road casualties in Great Britain: quarterly provisional estimates year ending September 2016 (February 2017).