Bicycles are among the world’s greatest inventions for exercise, relaxation, and pollution-free transportation. But for all that, they offer very little protection against cars in an accident. Being hit by a vehicle can be a life-altering or even fatal event. It is little wonder some cyclists experience Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) after an accident, but what can the cyclist do to regain their emotional footing?
What Is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
During a dangerous situation, our brains go into survival mode. We can’t think with our rational, analytical minds; it would take too long. Our body protects us, activating the fight, flight or freeze response.
Copious amounts of adrenaline flood our system, making us hyper-focused. We process information more quickly, so time seems to slow down. Fight or flight also prepares our body for extreme action by shutting down non-essential functions and moving resources to the muscles that are needed to act. This mechanism saves lives.
People who don’t experience life-or-death situations and the fight or flight mechanism daily won’t always know how to process what has happened. Even people with a high tolerance for adrenaline and danger, such as soldiers, police, and firefighters, can exceed their ability to cope.
PTSD is a distressing condition resulting from our brains getting stuck in survival mode.
What Are The Symptoms of PTSD?
Most people experience adverse side effects under extreme stress, but symptoms lessen until they function normally again. PTSD is diagnosed when these symptoms get worse rather than better or last longer than a month. Symptoms include:
- Flashbacks or dreams that force the victim to relive the event over and over. Each time the body experiences the same fight or flight response regardless of their current circumstances or surroundings.
- Victims avoid situations, experiences, or people that might remind them of the traumatic event.
- They may experience strong or sudden emotional reactions to external and internal triggers. They may seem jumpy, on edge, and overreact to situations they usually would take in stride. This disrupts their daily rhythms and processes and can make eating, sleeping, or concentrating difficult.
- Consistent or recurring changes in mood, including depression, anxiety, withdrawal, guilt, apathy, or suicidal ideation, also indicate PTSD.
What Treatment Options Are Available For PTSD?
First, if you or a loved one are thinking about or acting on impulses to harm yourself, now is the time to go to the ER. There is absolutely no shame in asking for help from a medical professional to deal with a medical condition.
PTSD is a temporary malfunction in brain processes. It isn’t a sign of weakness or lack of character. And, like a cast used to stabilize a bone while the body heals itself, mental health professionals help you stabilize your thoughts and actions so your mind can heal itself.
Once you or your loved one is stabilized, there are four recommended therapies, according to the American Psychological Association.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy– A therapist meets with the victim over a limited number of sessions to help them identify and challenge inaccurate or unbeneficial beliefs about traumatic events that may hinder the victim from moving forward.
- Cognitive Processing Therapy– CPT focuses mainly on PTSD. The therapist helps the victim recognize triggers associated with the traumatic event and helps them strategize coping techniques to change the outcome.
- Cognitive Therapy– Changing how we interpret events allows us to decrease the stress response.
- Prolonged Exposure– Familiarity reduces stress, meaning if you’re afraid of riding your bike after the accident, repeatedly going on rides will make you less afraid.
Other Therapies Recommended On A Case BY Case Basis
- Brief Eclectic Psychotherapy– This therapy uses multiple approaches to target different aspects of the trauma over several sessions.
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing– This treatment relies on eye movement to recreate natural brain processes. Regular events are coded and stored in our brains during REM (rapid Eye Movement) Sleep. Following the same eye-movement patterns while reliving the event gives the brain a chance to process the traumatic event.
- Narrative Exposure Therapy– Rather than internalizing an event, victims can learn to separate themselves from it using this therapy.
Is Therapy Expensive? Will My Insurance Company Cover The Cost?
Some insurance companies will cover the cost of treatment, but they will want compensation from the at-fault party in the accident to recover their costs.
There is also the matter of your deductible (out-of-pocket minimum before the insurance pays the remainder of the bill) and any costs not covered by your policy, such as lost wages during treatment or treatments the insurance company considers optional.
The cost of your treatment, both physical and mental, should be covered by the at-fault driver’s car insurance. So should be lost wages during treatment and repair or replacement of your bike. If the at-fault party is driving without insurance or without adequate insurance, or if the insurance company balks at paying your bills, this can put you in a difficult position. That’s where a bike accident attorney is most helpful.
Bike accident lawyers act as your advocate when dealing with car insurance and medical insurance companies. Their goal is to return you to a pre-accident condition, or as close as they can come, by making sure your current and future expenses are paid for by the person responsible for the accident. These expenses may include medical costs, prescription costs, lost wages, property repair or replacement, and more. By doing their job well, they make it possible for you to get the best treatment for your situation.