Psychologist Questions Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

My sister had a car accident last month. What can we do to help her?

My sister is 27 years old and she just has a bad car accident last month. She is traumatized and is scared to get back on the road. What should we do to help her?

17 Answers

It would be wise to have her see a therapist--she's been through a trauma and is understandably scared to drive gain. A therapist can help her slowly work to resolve the memories of the accident, as well as slowly induct her into the driving role again, with gradual simulated and/or real exercises designed as desensitizing her to the stimuli that's she's afraid of. Please have her begin therapy ASAP!
Take her to counseling for PTSD
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Slowly get her back out. What I mean is baby steps. Maybe start with just sitting in the car and talk with her. Step 2) Back up and down the driveway. Once you do that ask her if she would trust you to drive 1 block and back. Don't push her. If symptoms persist she may need counseling. Good Luck
It will be helpful to be understanding, but do not step in to do all the driving for her. She will need to gradually get comfortable with driving again, typically this reaction will only take a few weeks. First allow her be a passenger in the front seat, then ask that she drive, on a quiet road or neighborhood street. If the problem persists, seek help from a phobia treatment specialist.
Your sister may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This occurs when an individual experiences a life-threatening situation. The best thing you can do for her would be to encourage her to seek counseling. Call your state psychological association and ask them for a referral to a psychologist who is experienced in treating PTSD. 
Dear Madam/Sir,

Sorry to hear about your sister being traumatized by the bad car accident she was in. I would suggest you encourage her to see a psychotherapist, especially one who specializes in hypnotherapy as that will help her heal faster. You can drive her to her appointments until she feels confident to be on the road again behind a wheel.

Take care,

Dr. Lata Sonpal

It sounds as if your sister is traumatized. She will likely require professional assistance to help her work through the trauma. The avoidance of the feared situation is a symptom of the trauma, but also does not help her with healing. You can help by being patient with her, supportive and encouraging her to see a psychotherapist trained in trauma treatments, such as Prolonged exposure, Cognitive Processing, or EMDR.

Teresa Y. Chapa-Cantu, Ph.D.
You should mobilize family and friends to provide her with support and help her establish safety and predictability in her life. She can use meditation, visualization, and yoga to decrease anxiety and depression and calm her mind and body. She should also meet with a mental health professional to increase coping skills and utilize psychotropic medication as necessary to manage psychological and physiological effects of anxiety to increase her sense of control and well being. In addition, thorough expression of her thoughts and feelings in a safe therapeutic environment will help process the trauma and further diminish her symptoms. Finally, her therapist can help increase her willingness and ability to resume driving activities by using cognitive behavioral techniques i.e. challenging irrational thoughts and replacing them with rationale alternatives and gradually exposing her to her feared experiences. After each success, her confidence will increase to resume driving once more.
Ask her how you can help her. Ask her what her symptoms are.

Dr. Claire, PSY. D.
I’m sorry to hear about your sister. Encourage her to seek help for acute stress. Offer to take her on short rides or to ride with her if she is ready to take short drives.

Nicole Grunzke, PsyDLP
Talk to her and let her know she is not the only person and get her out and about little by little even if it is walks and riding bicycles or something
The best treatments for PTSD, in my opinion, are the newer so-called energy therapies. Check out Emotion Code and also Acupoint Tapping (Emotional Freedom Technique). If you can't find an Emotion Code practitioner in your area, no problem. A skilled practitioner can do it over the phone or by skype. As to the tapping, you or anyone can learn the technique via free videos on the web.
First she needs to review the truths of the accident and what lessons it offered, short of drama and exaggerations. When she is ready, you can sit with her as she drives around in a parking lot, then the block, then a familiar route. Each time, you can stop for an ice-cream done afterwards of a frozen yogurt. I had such an accident and I eventually drove up the coast of California to the Hearst Castle and stayed in a hotel that overlooked the ocean and had a jacuzzi. After achieving that goal and returning home I was fine to drive again.
Sounds like she has Posttraumatic Stress Disorder PTSD. The most effective treatment for PTSD is behavioral therapy.
I would recommend she make an appointment with a member of the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (ASCH) who can treat symptoms of such trauma. She is likely to be better in about 6 weeks. Sooner is much better than later.
Set up things in small douses. Make a list of things about driving a car that are stressful to her. Start with the least stressful event and slowly build up to driving - first in a safe area, and then small increments in time driving in normal situations until she can handle the stress. If your intervention does not help, seek professional help in setting up a CBT/Exposure therapy for her.
Hi there. I am so sorry to hear about your sister. She might be struggling with some Post Traumatic Symptoms. I would encourage her to be patient with herself and take care of herself. Whether it is taking time off of work, or going to therapy. Therapy will help her symptoms such as (fear, anxiety, and depression). Also, provide her with as much family support as possible.