A traffic accident can change a person's entire life from one moment to the next, and experts say the physical injury often takes less time// to heal than the psychological after-effects.
"Every person reacts differently to shock," says Erneli Martens, a priest working for the emergency rescue services in the northern German port city of Hamburg.
Clear indications that a person is in shock like screaming is seldom the case, she says. "Some people are quite calm and then often don't get any attention."
But First Aid workers should pay special attention to such people. "Sometimes it is sufficient just to be on standby without saying much," she advises.
Questions too can help assess how the person is feeling.
"If the person says something like: 'I don't know where I am', it is an indication of a shock condition and then the person should not be left alone. Relatives can be called to pick the person up," says Martens.
Accident victims should under no circumstances be sedated, warns Dietmar Lucas, from the Association of German Psychologists (BDP).
"This applies especially when the person is highly emotional. The adrenalin level has risen to such a point that a high dosage is necessary to calm down the person, on the other hand the medication disorientates the victim even more," says Lucas.
Psychological after-effects are often revealed days or even weeks after the accident. Rescue workers and eyewitnesses too are known to suffer from post-traumatic syndrome. Lucas points to typical symptoms such as depression, fear, sleeplessness, crying attacks, and heart and stomach ailments.
"I recently treated a woman suffering from extreme flashbacks," Lucas explains. "She was a passenger in a vehicle involved in a serious accident and repeatedly experienced the event like a football match in slow motion."
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