PTSD in auto accident victims and the role Motorsport may be able to play in treatment 

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, isn’t really something I’ve covered much of on this blog as I have no real experience of it myself and it’s such a broad topic it can be quite hard to pin a section down to talk about. 

The basis of PTSD is reliving a traumatic experience in your mind through flashbacks, both visual and auditory, nightmares and can cause a great deal of anxiety. Flashbacks can be triggered by smells, sounds and sights and is most commonly associated with war veterans and victims of assaults. 

However, recently I’ve found out that car accident victims can suffer from PTSD as well. In fact, a large number of people in treatment for PTSD are there because of car accidents. 

I was reading about a lady in the states who was a passenger in a car driven by her boyfriend that hit a bus pulling out of a bus stop. It was only a minor hit and no one was hurt but that feeling of a loss of control was enough to cause PTSD. She suffers with vivid flashbacks of the event and lost trust in her boyfriend which ultimately terminated her relationship. 

Another chap who was involved in a more serious accident can no longer watch NASCAR, a sport he used to love, as if there is a crash it triggers flashbacks for him. 
Both of these people, along with many others, now refuse to get in a car. I think that Motorsport could help these people regain their confidence in the automobile. 

As well as talking therapies PTSD sufferers can be treated with what’s called prolonged exposure therapy or PE. PE is designed to expose the patient to what causes them trauma so that they can properly process and deal with their fears rather than avoiding them. It is done over a gradual process so in this case one would be exposed to a picture of a car accident, then a video, then an I car video and so forth until they feel ready to go for a short drive. 

Once a person had mastered going for a short drive around the block I think that a little involvement in Motorsport would help them further overcome their fears and become more confident drivers. Obviously I’m not talking about door to door racing but there are lots of forms of Motorsport that will let you experiment with the limit of your car and yourself in a totally safe environment. Most of these sports listed below don’t even require any special modification to the car! 

RWYB drag events: Run What Ya Brung are hugely popular events that let people see how fast their cars can go on a drag strip. Santa Pod is the most popular venue but airfields up and down the country, such as North Weald in Essex, often close of their run ways to do this. It’s a good way to to get the feeling of speed with only a very tiny chance of hitting something. 

Public tack days: the majority of racing tracks have days where the public can go and drive their road cars around the track. Most tracks have a huge run off so there is very little chance of hitting something off track. If you’re in a slower car though make sure to get out the way of the faster cars! 

Drifting: although considerably more violent in nature than the others and will need a little more preparation to the cars, drifting is a great way to learn car control in a open area. Santa Pod’s Drift What Ya Brung day is a great place to learn as they have play pens to learn in where you’ll have no other cars on anything really solid to worry about hitting. Norfolk Arena is also great! Although you’ll be sharing the track with other cars there, there is enough room that you can give each other space and if you spin the drivers there are friendly enough to stop drifting and drive gently around you. 

If you haven’t your own car then there are a number of drift schools about. There is Flatout Factory based at Brands Hatch and L2D who travel all over. In Essex, Elite Precision Driving Academy is being put together (at least I think that’s what it’s called they have undergone a recent management change). All are super professional and I guarantee you will have a good day! 

As always I’d love to hear your thoughts. I know exposure therapy can be rough but it is worth battling through. I think if you can make facing your fears fun as well it can help in the long run. 

Thanks for reading! 

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