It is life-altering enough that you have been the victim of a personal injury. Perhaps you were in a car accident that left you in the hospital for weeks. Maybe you were attacked by a dog and needed reconstructive surgery on your face. Perhaps you suffered an assault by a stranger.  Whatever physical injuries you have endured because of what happened to you, the psychological injury just may be worse. Some people become so emotionally incapacitated by the trauma they experienced that life becomes overwhelming. This is called post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.  Post-traumatic stress disorder is one of the most highly compensated area of "mental duress" claims in personal injury cases because it is so easily traced to a specific event--and because it so profoundly affects the victim.

What is post-traumatic stress disorder?

Post-traumatic stress disorder refers to a group of symptoms afflicting someone who has undergone an event that most people rarely experience. You may tend to think of PTSD as something only soldiers develop, but it can form in people who have witnessed violent events, survived natural disasters, or survived situations they find extremely upsetting. Serious car accidents and physical assaults often cause this disorder. In order to be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, a person must, first of all, have witnessed, or been victim of, something that is agreeably traumatic.

Post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosis

A PTSD diagnosis involves the presence of symptoms in four areas.

  1. Intrusion. The victim re-experiences the traumatic event; it "intrudes" into his/her life through nightmares, flashbacks, and/or vivid memories. Upsetting responses to reminders of the event (such as an anniversary of the event or driving by the scene where it occurred) are common.

  2. Avoidance. The victim withdraws from people or situations associated with the event, and shuts off feelings and thoughts that arise from it.

  3. Thought/mood changes. The victim develops memory problems or an extremely negative thought pattern. This may involve blaming oneself for the event, believing one's life is ruined, or being overwhelmed by shame. The victim may no longer want to socialize or talk to others.

  4. Increased arousal symptoms. The victim appears constantly on edge, wary, defensive, and guarded. He/she may have difficulty concentrating and be easily startled.  Irritability and even rage episodes may occur.

In order to qualify for a clinical diagnosis, these symptoms must be present for at least a month and severely incapacitate the victim. Further, they cannot be caused by anything else except the traumatic event. PTSD is considered an anxiety disorder and can co-occur with other emotional disorders, such as depression and substance abuse.

Post-traumatic stress disorder and personal injury

After experiencing a violent event or major car accident, it might seem that many people would develop PTSD. However, only about 15% of trauma victims go on to be affected in this manner. For that reason, a personal injury lawyer will bring in a mental health professional to evaluate someone who has symptoms of PTSD; clear clinical documentation is critical to proving that the traumatic event caused these emotional problems. Beyond making a professional diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder, the clinician will also have to establish how much treatment will cost. Typical PTSD treatment includes therapy sessions, medications, and support groups.

If you have developed post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the event that caused your physical injuries, you face a particularly challenging road ahead. However, if an attorney can obtain for you the compensation you are going to need to treat your disorder, it will make that road much easier to travel. An initial consultation with a personal injury lawyer is free, so call and schedule a meeting with someone like John Tamming Law Office today.