Not sure if my symptoms are physical or psychological, haven't really received a diagnosis from medical professionals. Please help!

Okay, so this is an issue which has been bothering me for the past four months.

In June of this year, I was involved in a minor car crash on a small country road. It was raining and my car lost control on a bend, did a 180 degree turn and smashed at an angle into a brick wall at about 25-30mph.

- I did not black out at all during the crash, and remember everything that happened immediately before and after the accident.

-The only injuries I sustained at the time were mild whiplash and a slight bruise where my seatbelt had been locked due to the forces of the impact. I did not physically hit anything.

-My airbags did not deploy, despite the fact that the airbag light on the dashboard was activated.

-The external damage to the car is minimal (a few dents here and there) and suggests that the forces sustained by the vehicle weren't severe enough to cause significant structural damage.

However, 4 hours later I started to feel off and my boyfriend called for an ambulance. After several medical checks I was diagnosed with whiplash and a possible mild concussion, but was reassured that it was nothing serious. I was discharged the following night and told to rest for a few days.

The next day I woke up feeling very anxious. I had the worst headache I had ever experienced, I couldn't find the correct words to say in speech, and I felt incredibly fatigued. I had a hard time focusing on anything at all, and was dissociated from what was going on around me. I still do not know if this was because of concussion or emotional shock, as I had felt relatively okay the day before.

Another thing to note is that my sense of smell and taste had become distorted; buttered toast tasted like soap, and I couldn't really enjoy food for a couple of days. (These senses have since returned to normal.)

My episodic memory was all over the place to the point where I couldn't remember the content of conversations a few minutes after they were spoken to me. I know that PTSD can cause lapses in short-term memory, but my symptoms were worrying to me.

The biggest change has been my ability to listen to, remember and enjoy music. I don't feel quite as immersed in music as I used to be before my accident, and this is extremely devastating to me as a person because I was a musician and composer and music was my natural talent; it was something very important to my identity. I can only hope that it is a psychosomatic problem caused by the emotional impact of the crash and not physical brain damage as a result of my injuries. As I have said before, my doctor believes it is more of the former. In fact, most people I speak to do not believe I had sustained a concussion at all!

I'm here to ask you all for your advice on the matter, as I am tired of not being able to find any answers relating to my issue. Most of my symptoms have cleared, it is only my emotional dissociation to music that hasn't gone away. I also feel like I am not quite as articulate as I used to be but I'm not sure if I'm merely convincing myself there is something wrong when there is not- a kind of self-induced hypochondriasis.

Doctors have told me there is no signs of significant damage to my brain, but I seem to be having a hard time believing them; I seem to keep holding on to the possibility that my injuries were more serious than previously thought and that I do have some kind of permanent brain damage. It is causing me so much stress and anxiety, and I just want to move on with my life and put the car accident behind me.

What do you guys think? Do you think my symptoms are the result of a concussion or do you think I have PTSD? Am I just worrying about nothing?

10 Replies

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  • Hi Lemon pie have you spoken to Headway on the helpline?

    Whether there is a brain injury or not you have had one of those wake up calls that remind us exactly how fragile life actually is.

    We are not medics here but please talk to Headway.

    Love n hugs

    Xoxo

  • I did have a chat with headway and they told me to speak to my GP about my symptoms and to seek out possible counselling. I've spoken to my GP who has told me to give myself more time for recovery, whatever that really means. As for counselling, I have been on a very long waiting list for about three months now, and it may be several weeks or months before I am able to finally get an appointment arranged.

    I'm not really sure what to do now.

  • lemon pie i had a neurologist say to my wife he couldnt understand my behaviour when he kept me waiting 35mins because even though i had arrived for my appointment well before time, i needed to go to the loo.

    before my stroke i was polite and articulate, now im a fowl mouthed gutter snipe, i only know because my wife tells me, my only escape is when i write because i have to type.

    i think you need to go back to your dr and tell him about your headaches and about how symptoms are being missed and you want a scan because you were not happy with what youve been told............

  • I have to agree with random, those wake up calls can trigger real anxieties. It is unlikely that you will have brain damage as the professionals have told you, but if you can get a referral for a scan, do so, your peace of mind is important, and the affects of PTSD are not to be trivialised.

    Take care Janet

  • Thank you for your advice, it means a lot.

    My family were really not supportive or sympathetic towards me after the accident; they did not actually visit me in hospital and one of the first questions that was asked when I told them about the crash was, "How is the car?"

    Since it happened I have felt emotionally numb and I have not been able to do the things I used to really enjoy. The experience of the crash was very traumatic for me, and shattered the perception of my life being relatively safe.

    My emotional reaction to the crash has indeed been trivialised many times, and I am often told to just "get over it" and that the crash "wasn't as bad as I'm making it out to be." People react differently to traumatic experiences, so that is why I think it is terribly unfair that so many people have invalidated my feelings relating to the accident. It is easy for them to say it was nothing, because they weren't actually there to experience it.

    I'm just at a loss as to what to do next. I just want peace of mind; I want to know for sure that everything is fine and that my symptoms are because of PTSD and not brain damage. The crash happened between my transition from college to university, and I just want to know that my brain hasn't been cognitively affected and that I'm still capable of completing my degree.

  • Many people with genuine brain injuries are written off and sent wrongly into psych. I was one of those. I prefer to use the word injury rather than damage, because "damage" sounds permanent. Even if there is structural damage, healing (at least partial) is often possible with the right treatment. It's not an automatic life sentence, though many people - GPs included - still have that idea.

    Symptoms can be delayed. I share some of yours, including the verbal processing issues and the lack of immersion in the music I used to love. My advice would be to get a scan as everyone says. Even if it shows nothing, you still can't rule out damage, so see a concussion-aware neuropsychologist for a cognitive assessment. They're initially trained in psychology, so will be able to pick up any genuine anxiety issues. But with their subsequent training in neurology, they won't automatically see anxiety as an end diagnosis.

    In my (limited anecdotal) experience, articulate and high-IQ sufferers receive dismissal more often than not. We create mental workaround strategies that fool doctors and family members into believing we're unharmed. I'm not going to diagnose you because I'm not a professional, but please don't take doctor dismissal as the be-all and end-all. Especially from GPs, who are often clueless. Get a scan and some neuropsych tests for your own peace of mind.

    It might help if you write down some observations and test yourself. Which skills are impaired? What's your evidence? That will give the doctors something to go on, and also help you clarify your issues. You could also try to prove (or disprove) a link to mood. My symptoms always get worse with tiredness, but my mood rarely does, and that to me is good evidence that I'm not suffering from the mood disorder they attempted to lay on me.

    Lia

  • Hi Lemon pie,

    If you suffered whiplash, then it is possible you may have had some concussion, as the force of the head rocking back and forwards shakes the brain. You do not necessarily have to have had loss of consciousness/memory to have concussion. The bind is that mild concussion does not show on scans - so an 'all clear' on scans would still leave you never knowing for sure ! Have a rummage through this link to website for info :

    mayoclinic.org/diseases-con...

    The great news in your case is that your other symptoms have faded - it is to be hoped that your remaining issues can improve also, given time, whatever their cause : )

    Sorry to hear your family are not very supportive. Counselling may help you to come to terms with the 'shock' factor that an accident like this can cause. All things considered, you sound to be doing well and I wish you every success in your university studies.

    Kind regards, Angela x

  • Do recognise that the neurologist is actually saying thats/he can't see any damage on the MRI scan. That does not mean that there isn't anything going on! It doesn't sound as though you had much 'trauma' to get 'stressed' about so these very exact symptoms will be practical difficulties that your brain is experiencing. (The scientific rule of thumb here is 'Occam's Razor' btw)

    You are in the driving seat as far as your brain is concerned and s'he is out of his/her depth on this (as so often). The most likely explanation is that some areas of your brain suffered damage and you are experiencing the repair process. This is 'run' by your subconscious brain and it really does a wonderful job! (Look at the list of issues that it has sorted already). But is takes time and sleep...

    It is unlikely that you will have a bleed or aneurism at this stage so really I would suggest that you deliberately go into 'cooperative' mode for your hardworking subconscious brain; optimise your nutrition, sleep, avoid any further head vibrations (eg disco dancing!).

    Perhaps consider going on a low dose of 'happy pills' to cushion you emotionally if that would help? Some find that 'mindfulness' is useful too. Try not to obsess about things that are not 'right' yet - if you can just do a 'review' once a week. Time is the healer. Take care.

  • See if your GP will refer you to a neurologist for assessment. The fact that your olfactory senses are affected suggests some sort of trauma to the brain, possibly coup or contra coup if the impact caused a sudden jolt to your head.

    There will possibly be a post traumatic element involved, but any bruising to the brain can take months to heal, and in the meantime you won't function 100%. Take care LP xx

  • HI there,

    I have also experienced 'disconnection' from music after a car accident - to begin with I couldn't listen to loud music, which made sense, but I have just not been anywhere near as engaged with it, which can be quite upsetting.

    Very interesting to find someone else with the same issue!

    Jen