Positive Psychology Tools for Coping with Chronic Pain After a Car Accident

June 22, 2017 8:00 am


Chronic pain can cause immense stress on mental health, finances, and overall quality of life. When chronic pain is caused by a traumatic injury from a car accident, there are additional emotional scars that may contribute to feelings of anxiety, depression, or anger.

Living a full life with chronic pain is possible, and there are many positive psychology methods that can help you cope with your physical and emotional pain following a car accident.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) After a Car Accident

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, PTSD is “a mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event.” Anyone can develop PTSD, but people who sustain an injury from a trauma are more susceptible. PTSD is often linked to chronic pain, as the pain can be a constant reminder of the traumatic experience. Stress can also affect whether someone develops PTSD. Chronic pain comes with many stresses, including financial burden, frequent doctor’s appointments, medication regimens, and physical therapy. These added stressors can exacerbate existing PTSD symptoms.

Symptoms of PTSD include:

  • reliving the traumatic experience
  • avoiding situations that trigger memories of your accident
  • anxiety
  • depression

Positive Psychology and Chronic Pain

According to research from the University of Michigan’s Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center, “Thoughts, emotions, and pain are all neurological events processed by the same areas of the brain.” Therefore, therapy that helps to change the way we think can also change the way we perceive and experience pain.

In recent studies, positive psychology has shown to improve the quality of life for patients with severe chronic pain. However, there is much more to positive psychology than simply thinking happy thoughts. Specific therapies and treatment methods can be used to train the mind to perceive and manage pain differently.

This can be particularly beneficial after a trauma like a car accident because it helps to manage the negative emotions associated with the trauma, while also improving the quality of life throughout the physical recovery period.

Tools to Cope with Chronic Pain After a Car Accident

There are various tools in the positive psychology toolbox that can help to alleviate emotional and physical trauma following a car accident. The purpose of these methods is not to make the pain go away, but rather to maximize the quality of life with chronic pain.

  1. Manage stressStress can have a significant impact on mental health. Following a car accident, it’s important to give yourself a break from the daily stresses of life. Your recovery, physical therapy, and mental health are most important. Exercising, sleeping, eating well, and avoiding schedule overload can all help to alleviate stress.
  2. Stay active – While it sounds simple, distractions can go a long way in keeping your mind off of your pain. Engaging in activities that you are passionate about can help you feel purposeful and fulfilled in spite of your pain. It’s recommended that you engage in a project or activity that you enjoy on a regular basis to keep your mind engaged in positive, constructive things.
  3. Psychotherapy – There are specific techniques a professional counselor can help you with. Martin Seligman, known as the father of positive psychology, developed the “ABCDE’s of Staying Optimistic” which include recognizing your thoughts and feelings about an adversity, disputing those negative thoughts, and redirecting your energy and attention to something else. This is just one positive psychology method a therapist can guide you through. Consult a professional counselor or psychologist to help you develop tools to redirect feelings of hopelessness, sadness, or anger into optimism.

ABCDEs of Optimism by Martin Seligman

4. Support – Regardless of the tools you have to cope with pain, there will be good days and bad days. Having a support system of people who understand what you’re going through can be comforting. Whether this is your family, friends, or a support group, finding people who can empathize with you is important, and can help to pull you through the hard days.

Positive psychology is still a relatively new study, and many people question its validity as a proven method for improving quality of life. However, for people with chronic pain, every day can feel like an uphill battle, physically, mentally, and emotionally. Having the tools to create a better daily life is crucial to healing after a car accident or other trauma.

If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident, schedule an appointment to get the pain relief you need with no upfront costs. We work directly with the insurance companies and attorneys so you don’t have to pay.