While you may sustain a variety of bodily injuries after a car accident, we don’t often consider what our body goes through during the collision. Our bodies are equipped with processes to handle what we’re experiencing, both mentally and physically.
While the collision itself may only take seconds, our brain slows the event down. This is called slow motion perception. When your brain realizes something traumatic is happening quickly, it will increase its memory packing abilities. This improves your ability to recall the sights, sounds, smells, and touches of the accident. Because you’re experiencing a burst of senses in a short period of time, the span of events significantly slows down.
As slow motion perception fades, adrenaline kicks in. Adrenaline is a hormone the body secretes under intense conditions of stress – a survival hormone. Blood circulation, breathing, and metabolism rates increase. You’re likely to feel a rapid heart rate, sweating, and shaking. You may become pale and experience blurred or tunneled vision.
Adrenaline is the body’s fight-or-flight response. Its purpose is to help you cope with unexpected or dangerous situations, like an auto accident. For a short period of time, you may experience less pain and feel stronger or faster.
After the adrenaline surge wears off, you may enter a state of shock. While shock can be due to physical injuries, we’re going to focus on the side effects of a mental shock state. Victims of mental shock can experience both psychological and physical symptoms. Psychological symptoms may include anxiety and fear, confusion, self-blame, and feeling disconnected or numb. Physical symptoms can include fatigue, muscle tensions, or a racing heartbeat.
The mental state of shock can last for minutes, hours, or days depending on how severe the car accident was and how your body processed the trauma. Once the shock wears off, you’ll begin to understand and process what happened. There are likely to be segments of time that you are completely unable to recall. These moments and memories may come back in time, or they may not.
While it’s important to focus on healing and recovering from your bodily injuries, make sure you don’t neglect your mental state. After a car accident, you may experience depression, anxiety, insomnia, or nightmares. Severe collisions can result in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). With PTSD, you may relive the event, completely avoid discussions or reminders or the event, develop negative beliefs, or experience jitters.
There are ways to recover from your car accident. Exercise and movement are important. This can help you burn off remaining adrenaline hormones. It’s also important to avoid isolating yourself. Remember to take care of your body by eating a balanced diet, sleeping regularly, and finding outlets to cope with your stress. If you feel as though you’re not progressing as you’d like, there’s always the option to seek help from a professional therapist.