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Seamen and PTSD: Get the facts


Working on a vessel is dangerous. Everyday, maritime workers put their lives risk in order to do their jobs. When accidents happen, they can be devastating. A worker might escape from a burning oil platform just to spend hours at sea waiting for rescue. After an ordeal like this, a seaman might experience mental as well as physical trauma.

Most people who are involved in accidents and traumatic events have a brief period of difficulty adjusting or coping. But, after an adjustment period, they get better. In cases of severe trauma, the symptoms can get worse and last for months or years. The symptoms may disrupt the victim’s life effecting their work and relationships. If this occurs, the worker should be screened for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Mental Trauma May Be Higher After Maritime Accidents

It is not uncommon for injured seamen to suffer from PTSD. The symptoms usually begin about three months after the accident, often around the time the worker has healed from his physical injuries.

Signs of PTSD in injured seamen include:

  • Intrusive memories – The victim may experience flashbacks or dreams about the accident. They may relive the accident over and over.
  • Avoidance – The victim will avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event and will avoid situations that are associated with the event.
  • Numbing – Victims appear to “turn off” their emotions. They will withdraw from the people and activities they once enjoyed.  They may seem preoccupied with the accident, or they may block what has happened.
  • Increased anxiety and emotional arousal – Victims are hyper alert. They may be irritable and quick to anger. They may startle easily and see or hear things that are not there. Victims may have trouble sleeping, or they may engage in self-destructive behavior such as heavy drinking.

The signs and symptoms of PTSD may come and go. A victim may seem fine until the symptoms are triggered by a period of stress or news of a similar accident.
Emotional adjustment to an accident is normal, but if symptoms interfere with an accident victim’s ability to lead a normal life, they may need medical treatment. Seek medical treatment if symptoms last for more than a month.

Criteria for the diagnosis of PTSD

  • The victim experienced or witnessed an even that involved death or serious injury, or the threat of death or serious injury.
  • The emotional response to the event involved fear for ones life, a sense of helplessness or a feeling of horror.
  • The victim relives the event through distressing images and memories, nightmares, flashbacks, or physical reactions.
  • The victim is constantly on-guard or alert for danger.
  • The symptoms last longer than one month.
  • The symptoms interfere with every day life and relationships.

Although PTSD is a normal reaction to horrific experiences, it may be hard for an injured worker to admit they are suffering PTSD. Treatment is available for PTSD and may combine therapy and medication.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an offshore accident, you need a maritime lawyer to help you. Contact the New Orlean’s based attorneys at TheYoung Firm. Our lawyers can help you on the way to recovery by helping you get fair compensation for all your injuries. Call 866-703-2520 to learn more.



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