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Memory problems after a car accident?

Learn how stress and anxiety affect your Working Memory and everyday tasks.

Feeling “out of it” after a car accident? Having trouble multi-tasking or juggling all the details of your normal day? You aren’t alone, and we want you to know what you are experiencing is normal. After a car accident you are probably dealing with a large increase in stress and anxiety. Stress and anxiety directly impact your working memory, making it harder to concentrate on single tasks, as well as to multi-task.

Working Memory

We have several different types of Memory. You can remember how to drive a car even when you don’t remember where you left the keys! And those are both different from remembering the differences between a Ford and a Chevy. “Working memory” is a complex process that allows us to hold information in our head, and then do something with that information. This can be as simple as remembering two numbers, and then adding them together. Working memory is always in the background, helping us stay focused on tasks, making decisions and resolving problems. We have all experienced how fear, stress and anxiety can mess with our working memory. Everyone has forgotten something as they rush out the door late to work. Or made a poor decision while being pressured or given a “hard sell”.

What happens after a car accident?

Injury victims tend to have their lives upended through no fault of their own. The physical injuries, pain, inconvenience, financial burdens, and uncertainty contribute to feelings of stress and anxiety. This is especially true after suffering a concussion or TBI. Managing everyday stress is hard enough, and the aftermath of a car accident can be traumatic. This can make even simple tasks difficult. As our working memory gets worse and worse, we make mistakes, forget things, which creates even more problems, creating a spiral of stress and anxiety. Not to mention the very real physical impact of this increased stress and anxiety–It is well known that injury-related stress and anxiety can cause migraines, headaches, acid reflux, and PTSD flareups. It is interesting to note that while there have been many scientific studies that involve depressed individuals, there are a lack of studies that focus on how an otherwise healthy person is affected by stress and anxiety.

Is stress different from anxiety?

Yes! Although we often use the two words to mean the same thing, there are differences. Anxiety is a state of heightened awareness due to uncertainty or conflict. Suffering from anxiety can mean focusing on “worrying” thoughts even when it just makes things worse. Anxiety often happens when a person has too many demands on their time and resources. While there is overlap between anxiety and stress, stress is usually accompanied by a hormone response that may not include fear and anxiety. In fact, these hormonal responses can be beneficial! Appropriate levels of stress can improve Working Memory, and are a key factor in exercises such as cross-fit training!

What can I do about injury-induced anxiety?

Definitely see a health care provider and tell them about all your symptoms. Health care providers will be able to treat your injuries and help reduce the impact of your physical injuries. Your health care provider can also develop a treatment plan ensure your future health.

We can also help you. You may not realize it, but a good lawyer will handle your insurance claims, deal with adjusters, and focus on the many legal issues that come with a serious injury. Let us take some of these problems off your plate. That way you and your family can focus on healing and getting back to your daily life. The problems that come with a serious injury are new to you, but they are what we do every day! Let us help.

There are no quick fixes for car accident related stress and anxiety. Your injuries will take time to heal, there will be bills to pay, and there will be stress and anxiety. But you will get through it! And having the right support makes a world of difference.