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Road to Recovery: Tackling Driving Anxiety After an Accident

This article was approved by Jim Adler

An automobile accident can have a devastating impact. While physical injuries and even death are common, even those who walk away from an accident often have lasting effects. After the injuries heal, sometimes, emotional pain lingers, causing anxiety. A personal injury lawyer can be a valuable resource for people recovering from a car accident. Instead of suffering with debilitating anxiety and depression, people can reclaim their lives by tackling driving anxiety. A number of psychotherapy techniques can have positive results. Other people take a defensive driving course or even try hypnotherapy. With a proactive approach to emotional healing, it is possible to recover from driving anxiety.


Anxiety after a car accident can be debilitating, but some people have found relief with psychotherapy techniques. A therapy technique called eye movement desensitization reprocessing, also known as EMDR, is short-term and very effective for many people. After the frightening experience of a car accident, people often store the experience away in the mind. Often, the car accident is so traumatic that the brain simply cannot process it effectively. Therefore, it stays tucked away in a suppressed state, but the distress lives on and continues to impact emotions. A therapist trained in EMDR brings the memories out into the open to enable the patient to process and resolve them. A therapy session involves pinpointing memories while the therapist directs specific eye movements. The eye movements correlate with the memories and accompanying emotions to neutralize them and help the patient focus on positive thoughts in association with the memories. Another type of therapy that may help with anxiety from a car accident is the emotional freedom technique. Based on the same principles as acupuncture, EFT involves thinking about a specific issue while tapping the head and the chest with the fingertips to access specific meridians. The combination of thoughts and tapping is said to help to clear out emotional issues to rewire how the brain processes them.


When driving anxiety debilitates, drivers might turn to hypnotherapy to resolve their issues. Fear of driving can become so extreme that a person stops driving. With hypnotherapy, a therapist helps a patient to assume a relaxed state. While in this state, the therapist makes suggestions to help the subconscious mind turn away from negative thoughts associated with the car accident and driving. In contrast, the therapist then makes new positive associations, which the subconscious mind will adopt instead. This process actually helps disassociate fear and anxiety from driving and replaces these negative thought processes with positive ones.

Defensive Driving Courses

Knowledge and experience can be powerful in this situation. Some people who have survived a car accident but struggle with ongoing anxiety overcome the problem by taking a defensive driving course. These courses educate drivers in driving safety and common dangerous driving situations. By learning how to drive defensively, drivers can feel more confident about knowing how to avoid potential incidents and accidents.


People are often vulnerable both physically and emotionally after a car accident. Essential self-care after an accident involves resting, eating well, and allowing the body to heal slowly. Seeking medical care is of paramount importance. It’s common for adrenaline immediately after an accident to mask other symptoms. Pain may not become evident until the adrenaline levels diminish over the first few days. Self-care is an individual process, but some people might find comfort in gentle stretching, walking the dog, spending quality time with family, and resting. Talking about the accident can also be helpful for managing anxiety.


When anxiety overwhelms, some people turn to medication to manage their emotions. Medication may be a viable option for getting through the initial struggles; however, it is not the best way to cope in the long term if not coupled with another treatment. A physician would need to prescribe anxiety medication. While taking the prescription, the patient would need to stay under the physician’s care. Some patients find that after taking anti-anxiety medication for several months, the drug loses its effectiveness, so it’s important to follow up with a doctor as necessary.

Online Resources

A number of online resources are available to help people through anxiety issues stemming from an automobile accident. For instance, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America is a resource for both support and information to help people live and thrive in the midst of anxiety and depression. The National Center for PTSD works to research anxiety and educate people about the challenges associated with post-traumatic stress disorder. And Mental Health America offers assistance with a support group network and information about therapy options available around the country.

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