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Post-traumatic Stress Disorder in Accident Victims

Although post-traumatic stress disorder is most often associated with soldiers who have been in combat, research by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) found that people who suffered an orthopaedic trauma, like a fracture from a motor vehicle accident, developed symptoms of PTSD.

In the original study, AAOS found that more than half of the patients who were injured in motor vehicle crashes developed symptoms of PTSD.

Pedestrians who were struck by a car had an even higher risk of symptoms of PTSD: more than 60% of the showed signs of post-traumatic stress.

“PTSD occurs with a significant frequency in civilian patients who have sustained an orthopaedic trauma, and it can hinder their emotional, physical and functional recovery following orthopaedic treatment … Without effective treatment, PTSD can hinder activities of daily living, such as bathing, eating, paying bills, shopping, laundry and other household chores. Patients with PTSD also may be delayed in returning to work.” Daniel Aaron, MD, a clinical instructor in the department of orthopaedics at Brown University in Providence, R.I.

After surviving a catastrophic or even a relatively minor injury, people may feel dazed or numb for long periods of time, may have trouble sleeping or eating, and may be subject to bad memories that recall the fear, confusion and pain of the initial trauma.

However, a diagnosis of PTSD is reliant upon specific behaviors, such as re-experiencing the traumatic event, including nightmares, flashbacks and intrusive memories; avoiding situations reminiscent of the original trauma, reluctance to talk or think about the original trauma, and an increase in anger, irritability, difficulty concentrating, insomnia and/or an increased startle responses.

If you believe you may be suffering from PTSD, it’s important to contact your physician for diagnosis and treatment. Additionally, the symptoms of PTSD can closely resemble those of a traumatic brain injury, so be sure to share all of the facts about your accident or injury with your doctor.

More information is available at the Post-traumatic Stress Disorder Alliance.

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