Understanding PTSD Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Caused by Catastrophic Accidents

Houston PTSD Attorneys

Helping Those Suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety illness that results from an extreme physiological experience.

Some experiences that cause PTSD include the following:

  • Sexual or physical abuse
  • Being in a serious accident, such as a car crash
  • Sustaining critical injury or seeing someone injured
  • Surviving an explosion or another disastrous event

The effects of PTSD occur after the event takes places, sometimes within weeks, but occasionally months or years later. A traumatic experience resulting in PTSD actually “rewires” the way someone’s brain processes, causing the disorder to become a “part” of the patient’s thinking. This psychological disorder is characterized by four major symptoms that can alter a patient’s life drastically.

The Four Main Symptoms of PTSD

  • Reliving the Event
    Memories are strong visions that bring people back to "re-experience" an event. While memories can be joyous, those with PTSD are typically haunted by their trauma. The events that caused the brain to succumb to PTSD will occur again and again in the mind of the affected. Some patients find themselves reliving the events while they are awake, having flashbacks that can be triggered by any number of sounds, smells, or tastes. Other individuals will relive their traumatic events in their sleep, having “nightmares” that force them to witness the incident again.
  • Avoidance Behavior
    Another symptom is the avoidance of people or places that remind the affected of their original trauma. For example, if someone suffers PTSD from a traffic accident, he or she may be unwilling to get into a car. In extreme cases, the affected may be unwilling to watch shows or movies where accidents are shown on screen. People may also avoid interacting with individuals who were connected to the trauma.
  • Emotional Detachment
    Victims of PTSD experience drastic changes in how they express themselves emotionally. After the trauma, those with PTSD may find activities they used to enjoy disinteresting and unfulfilling. Close friends and family members may be treated as strangers by a loved one who suffered a traumatic experience. In some cases, people with PTSD may be completely unable to talk about their incident to others or may have completely forgotten major details about their affliction.
  • Hyperarousal
    Hyperarousal can be defined as being extremely on edge. PTSD patients may find themselves becoming irrationally angry for no apparent reason. On the other side of hyperarousal, people living with PTSD may be prone to extreme fright if surprised. Seemingly abrupt changes to environments or plans can terrify someone with PTSD, causing them to breakdown with little provocation. This constant state of arousal can lead the affected to shake uncontrollably and find difficulty in concentrating on simple tasks.

Although these four symptoms represent the main changes of behavior, people with PTSD might alter their actions in other ways. Due to the extreme lows of PTSD, some of the affected turn to coping mechanisms like drugs and alcohol. This behavior, in addition to the symptoms mentioned, can make those who suffer from PTSD unemployable. Due to the relational difficulties and the emotional changes that affect PTSD patients, families, and friends of the affected may sever ties from their loved one.

Acute Stress Reaction

Acute stress reaction (also called acute stress disorder or shock) is a psychological condition that develops in response to a traumatic event. Witnessing the event may cause an individual to experience extreme fear, stress, and pain. Acute stress disorder is a type of post-traumatic stress disorder. Acute stress reaction can manifest itself with a wide variety of symptoms; typically, the condition begins with a dazed state, some limits on consciousness, an inability to understand and respond to stimuli. Shortly after the initial trauma, the initial state will transition to either further withdrawal from surroundings or a move to agitation, hyperactivity, anxiety, confusion, depression, and detachment. Displaying signs of panic (flushing, sweating, and a racing heartbeat) is also typical of individuals experiencing an acute stress reaction. Symptoms of an acute stress reaction usually disappear in two to three days. If they persist for longer, and last up to but not longer than four weeks, a person is suffering from an acute stress disorder. Symptoms that last longer than a month are probably indicative of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Common Treatments for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is based on the idea that psychological conditions develop because of how people interpret and evaluate situations, thoughts, and behaviors. CBT aims to help people learn healthier ways of coping with distressing emotions, as well as how to reduce avoidance behaviors and other problematic actions, like substance abuse.

Three different therapies fall under the heading of CBT:

  • Exposure Therapy - Exposure therapy is designed to reduce the level of fear and anxiety associated with PTSD related "triggers," which are situations, sounds, or even people who bring on reminders of the traumatic event. The fear reduction is accomplished by exposing patients to triggers and working through the associated fears and anxieties in a therapeutic environment.
  • Stress Inoculation Training (SIT) - The goal of SIT is to help a PTSD victim gain confidence in his or her ability to deal with the anxiety and fear that accompany reminders of the original trauma. A therapist employing SIT techniques will help the person with PTSD become aware of his or her triggers so that the individual can immediately recognize those signs and quickly address them with coping or relaxing techniques.
  • Cognitive-Processing Therapy (CPT) - CPT was developed specifically for people living with PTSD who experienced a sexual assault. It is a program with 12 steps that helps victims address negative emotions, as well as about the trauma he or she experienced.

Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing (EMDR)

EMDR, discovered in 1987, is an eight-stage therapy treatment specifically designed for people with PTSD, developed by Dr. Fran Shapiro, herself who has PTSD. In the first stage of therapy, the person with PTSD identifies which experiences are stressful; he or she also discusses the symptoms and thoughts from which they want to be freed. Next, the patient and therapist discuss the traumatic experiences. In the following three stages, beliefs, feelings, and sensations related to the trauma are discussed. The patient then reflects on these items while focusing on the therapist's finger as it moves back and forth. The hypnotic finger movement is repeated until the thoughts are no longer stressful; at this point, the patient thinks of a positive belief which was agreed upon before this stage. Finally, the patient writes down any feelings or thoughts that are still stressful, and changes to the client's emotional situation are then discussed. The eight stages of EMDR can be repeated several times.


If non-pharmaceutical treatments are not fully assisting in PTSD recovery, drug therapy may be indicated. Several types of medications, including antidepressants, anxiolytics (anti-anxiety pills), anticonvulsants, and even atypical antipsychotics, may be employed.

Some of the most common drugs include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Paxil
  • Prozac
  • Zoloft
  • Lexapro
  • Sinequan
  • Cymbalta
  • Wellbutrin
  • Ativan
  • Halcion
  • Xanax
  • Depakote
  • Abilify
  • Risperdal
  • Zyprexa

Contact an Attorney for Your PTSD Case: (888) 493-1629

PTSD is disabling and can be brought on by any accident or traumatic event. Individuals who have PTSD can experience relief from their symptoms, in some cases making a full recovery, but only with the proper treatment. Physicians who specialize in treating people with PTSD frequently recommend Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). Certain medications, like Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), may also help people with PTSD cope with their symptoms and achieve recovery.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with PTSD, you may be entitled to receive compensation for your medical bills and emotional distress. The therapy and medication that help PTSD patients are costly, and there is no reason why you should be paying for these charges if you were a victim of negligence on behalf of another. At Arnold & Itkin, we trust in our ability to get you the financial compensation that you deserve. There is no risk in giving us a call, so take care of your health or your loved one and call today. We are here to help you get through this.

Don't wait any longer! Call our team today at (888) 493-1629 for experience and dedication. If you or a loved one has had PTSD as a result of a traumatic accident, you may be entitled to compensation. We understand the difficulty in these situations and works diligently to ensure that victims' rights are protected.

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