| Read Time: 4 minutes | Personal Injury

A personal injury can be a life-altering event, leaving more than physical scars. Emotional trauma often accompanies bodily injury, and understanding and addressing these psychological wounds is as essential to recovery as managing physical ones.

Mental Health and Personal Injury  Emotional Trauma

Common psychological injuries include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, and panic disorders. While these conditions can feel debilitating, remedies such as therapy, legal assistance, and other psychological assistance are available.

If you are experiencing emotional distress, don’t hesitate to seek help.

What Is Emotional Distress? 

Emotional distress is a broad term that refers to the mental and emotional suffering experienced by an individual after certain circumstances, such as personal injury.

Common symptoms include irritability, difficulty sleeping, mood swings, confusion, social isolation, constant tearfulness, and memory loss. If you suffer from emotional trauma, it can affect your daily life and prevent you from performing tasks you previously performed easily. 

Common Psychological Injuries Following Personal Injury 

While emotional distress doesn’t always meet the criteria of a psychological injury, it can manifest as one. Several common conditions occur as a result of injury.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD is a psychological disorder from witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event, such as a car accident, medical malpractice, or assault. While PTSD is commonly associated with war veterans, it can happen to anyone. In fact, an estimated one in 11 people will be diagnosed with PTSD in their lifetime. 

Some common symptoms of PTSD include: 

  • Unwanted but persistent memories of the trauma,

  • Heightened reactions,

  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities,

  • Nightmares,

  • Insomnia, and 

  • Avoidance of situations that resemble the trauma.

For a person to be diagnosed with PTSD, symptoms must occur for over a month and significantly impact daily life. PTSD symptoms can appear directly after a traumatic event or months following the event. 


Chronic pain, disability, and disruption to daily life can lead to depression. Depression is a medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, think, and act. It often causes sadness or a loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed. Symptoms of depression include: 

  • Feelings of sadness,

  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much,

  • Change in appetite,

  • Lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed,

  • Loss of energy or increased fatigue,

  • Difficulty concentrating, thinking, or making decisions,

  • Feeling worthless or guilty, or

  • Thoughts of death or suicide.

Symptoms must amount to a change in your previous level of functioning and last for at least two weeks to be diagnosed as clinical depression.

Anxiety and Panic Disorders 

Personal injuries can trigger overwhelming feelings of anxiety, leading to panic attacks, excessive worry, and phobias related to the incident or its consequences. Anxiety disorders can also feature physical symptoms such as sweating, a rapid heartbeat, trembling, or dizziness.

Remedies Available 

Everyone’s experience with psychological trauma differs, and the path to healing may vary. Some remedies that may help with emotional trauma include therapy, legal assistance, and other psychological assistance. 


Seeking the help of a therapist or mental health professional can be an invaluable step toward treating emotional distress. A skilled therapist can help you develop healthy coping mechanisms and navigate emotional challenges.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), cognitive processing therapy (CPT), eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), and prolonged exposure are some therapeutic options that can be helpful when dealing with psychological trauma. 

Group therapy sessions and support groups can also be effective and help foster a sense of community with people who have experienced similar challenges and traumas. With remote therapy options available now, therapy is more accessible than ever.

Legal Assistance  

You may be able to file a lawsuit to recover damages if you are experiencing emotional trauma after a personal injury. In California, there are two primary types of emotional distress claims: negligent infliction of emotional distress and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Because these claims are intangible, the damages associated with these claims are typically harder to quantify than economic damages such as medical bills and lost wages. An experienced lawyer can help you navigate the legal complexities of these claims and recover the damages you deserve. 

Negligent infliction of emotional distress

In California, your damages for a negligence claim can include noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering and emotional distress. Emotional distress includes suffering, anguish, fright, horror, nervousness, grief, anxiety, worry, shock, humiliation, and shame.

Serious emotional distress exists if an ordinary, reasonable person would be unable to cope with it.

Notably, in California, you can also recover emotional distress damages as a “bystander” when you witness a loved one being physically injured due to negligence.

In both these cases, you may be able to seek compensatory damages, such as medical expenses for mental health treatment, therapy costs, and loss of income resulting from emotional distress. The amount of damages will depend on the nature and extent of your injuries.  

Intentional infliction of emotional distress

Intentional infliction of emotional distress occurs when someone’s conduct is outrageous, and they purposefully cause emotional harm. In California, some acts that were not truly intentional but were caused by extreme recklessness or outrageous conduct can be classified as intentional.  

Other Psychological Assistance 

In addition to traditional therapy and legal assistance, other methods can help victims cope with psychological trauma. These methods include: 

  • Family and social support. Lean on family and friends for emotional support. Having a strong support system can significantly aid in the recovery process.

  • Medication. In some cases, medication prescribed by a psychiatrist or mental health specialist may be necessary to manage the symptoms of depression, anxiety, or other mental health conditions.

  • Mindfulness and relaxation techniques. Practices like meditation, yoga, and deep breathing exercises can help manage anxiety and reduce the impact of emotional distress.

  • Prioritize physical health. Physical health and mental health are often connected. Sleep well, eat a nutritious diet, rest, and exercise if possible.

These strategies can often be performed in conjunction with one another to optimize recovery. 

Contact an Attorney 

Mental health and personal injury claims are often linked, and exploring the available remedies to address emotional trauma effectively is crucial.

Consulting with a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer who can assess your case and help you receive fair compensation for emotional distress is integral to treating your injuries.

The Frederick Law Firm has four decades of experience in California personal injury law and is ready to advocate to protect your rights. Our personal injury attorneys have a proven record of success and have won millions of dollars on behalf of our clients. Contact us today for your initial consultation.

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