Can a Car Accident Change Your Personality?

A car accident can bring a plethora of problems, from financial difficulties to lasting physical injuries. However, it’s the emotional consequences of an accident that often destroy a person’s life. A severe accident can change a person’s view of the world and even alter their personality in a noticeable way. Along with harming the accident survivor, this also causes distress to loved ones, coworkers, and friends.

Three Ways a Car Accident Can Change a Personality

1. Traumatic brain injury

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a common cause of personality changes following a car accident. Nearly everything that makes a person who they are can be found within the brain. When the structures of the brain become damaged during an accident, major personality changes can occur. Studies have shown that a TBI can cause alterations behavior as well as a host of personality disorders.

A brain injury doesn’t have to be severe to cause problems. One study found that after a minor traumatic brain injury resulting from a car crash, participants faced a wide spectrum of disorders. The observed disorders included:

  • Altered consciousness
  • Cerebral personality disorder
  • PTSD
  • Psychodynamic reactions to impairment
  • Neurological, somatic, and psychological dysfunctions

Any of these psychological disorders can have severe consequences that can wreak havoc on an accident victim’s life and completely change their personality.


A car accident can be a frightening ordeal. People often develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the weeks or months following an accident. Certain situations, such as being trapped in the wreckage and requiring rescue, may increase the likelihood of emotional trauma.

Research has shown that vehicular accidents have been the leading cause of PTSD since the end of the Vietnam War. Experts believe that nine percent of accident survivors will end up with some form of PTSD.

PTSD can cause a range of symptoms that may affect someone’s personality. Some of the major symptoms include:

  • Flashbacks of the accident
  • Irritability
  • Self-destructive behaviors
  • Social isolation
  • Nightmares
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Depression and anxiety

Accident victims who end up with PTSD get stuck in a fight, fright, or flight cycle that leaves them in a perpetual state of distress. Even months after the accident is over, they may still experience the emotions that they did at the moment their life was in danger.

3. Guilt

If a person feels responsible for an accident that caused someone else’s death, they may find it difficult to move on. Even if they weren’t at fault, they may wonder why they survived and others did not. Survivor’s guilt is common, and carrying this guilt for months or years can change someone’s personality. The survivor may find it difficult to laugh and enjoy themselves the way they used to. They may feel they don’t deserve happiness in life.

If this is the case, seeking professional therapy is the best solution. A trained therapist can help the survivor come to terms with what happened and move on.

Avoiding Personality Changes After a Car Accident

Even if your injuries don’t seem serious, getting a medical check after a car accident is strongly recommended. The signs of brain injuries are not always evident right away. Forgoing medical treatment increases the risk of death from an unknown brain bleed or other internal injuries. From a legal perspective, having documented evidence of your injuries will help you with any future court cases.

If you do have a TBI, learning the extent of the damage early on will help you in dealing with the emotional symptoms. If you don’t already have a therapist, ask for a referral when you see your doctor. There’s no shame in seeking professional help, especially after a traumatic incident. Your therapist will help you come up with a plan to deal with any emotional effects caused by the accident.

Image by Prettysleepy from Pixabay 

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