Car crashes are terrifying, traumatic events no one ever hopes to experience. They can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time. While some accidents are simple rear-end collisions or fender benders, many accidents that occur are a much bigger deal. Regardless of the size and severity of a car accident, the traumatic event may result in a person developing vehophobia.
Vehophobia, also known as the fear of driving, is a very real and prevalent issue many people experience after suffering a serious car accident. The fear of driving after a car accident is technically a form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD can be set off by any terrifying incident, including the trauma of almost dying (or thinking you might die), the trauma of injuring your children, or just the violence of the event in general.
The word “vehophobia” comes from the Latin word veho meaning “drive”, and the Greek word phóbos meaning “fear”. The fear of driving persists long after the initial car crash for many different and unique reasons. However, there are some general ideas that prevent people from driving, including:
- Fear that they will get into another accident, even if they have driven for years without getting into an accident in the past.
- Suffering from extreme and crippling anxiety, preventing them from driving altogether.
- Fear that they will suffer a panic attack while operating the car, resulting in another accident.
- Fear that they may harm or kill another person, family or their own children or family.
Regardless of the reason, the results can be extremely debilitating and can completely alter their life.
What is PTSD?
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health disorder that is triggered by witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event, such as natural disasters, a terrorist act, war/combat, serious accidents, and any type of violent or nonviolent personal assault. PTSD symptoms can completely alter a person’s everyday life as well as put strain on their relationships.
PTSD symptoms are typically grouped into four different types: changes in personality, intrusive thoughts, avoidance, and harmful thoughts, and feelings.
- Changes in personality. PTSD can change one’s personality by making them irritable with angry outbursts. They may also begin to act recklessly and/or self-destructively. Other changes may include difficulty concentrating, being easily startled and difficulty sleeping.
- Intrusive thoughts. Repeated, involuntary memories, distressing dreams, or flashbacks are all examples of intrusive thoughts. These thoughts can be so vivid that an individual may feel like they are actually reliving their traumatic experience.
- Avoidance. People with PTSD may avoid anything that reminds them of their trauma, resulting in the avoidance of people, places, objects, situations, and activities. They may even resist talking about it altogether.
- Harmful thoughts and feelings. Ongoing and distorted beliefs about others and/or themselves are common examples of harmful thoughts and feelings. Additionally, feelings of fear, guilt, horror, shame, and anger can potentially cause someone to lose interest in activities that were once enjoyable. Feelings of detachment are also common.
For an individual to be diagnosed with PTSD, their symptoms must last for more than one month. Many people develop symptoms within three months of the trauma; however, symptoms can appear much later. Symptoms can vary over time or vary from person to person. Sometimes, symptoms may be minimal while at other times they are so severe you feel as though you cannot go on.
Additionally, not everyone who witnesses or experiences trauma will get PTSD; no one knows why PTSD happens to some but not to others. For this reason, PTSD is not an indication of weakness, and should not be used to determine someone’s mental strength.
Importance of Early Intervention and Treatment
Car crashes can happen to anyone at any time and any place. There is no way to predict if and when a person will experience a car accident, or if the traumatic experience will result in vehophobia. Fortunately, there are treatments available, such as Accelerated Resolution Therapy® (ART) to help those suffering from vehophobia and PTSD after experiencing a car accident.
Intervene as soon as possible on behalf of someone suffering from PTSD. Uncharacteristic behavior can become increasingly destructive. Over time, buried and suppressed memories become more and more powerful. Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART) is an innovative, evidence-based therapy for PTSD, anxiety, depression, stress, and similar mental health issues. Initially, the therapy was primarily used to help veterans suffering from PTSD. One of the major advantages of the therapy is the speed at which ART is able to bring relief. Generally, one to five sessions are needed, not months or years of expensive psychological treatment.
Accelerated Resolution Therapy works by reprogramming the traumatic memories that are preventing people from enjoying the full life they deserve. The techniques work equally well on anyone suffering from trauma, regardless of the type of trauma experienced. Trauma, at the end of the day, is still trauma.
Regardless of how bad things may be, there is always hope, and there is always someone available to help you through difficult times. Contact ART International Training and Research to learn more about the therapy or to find a therapist near you.