The Psychological Effects of Burn Injuries

By December 28, 2017Burn Injuries

Many people are aware that burns, including scald burns, are among the most painful, debilitating injuries a human can suffer. Not only are these wounds excruciating in the immediate aftermath of an accident, but the healing process can be agonizing. Scarring and disfigurement are common. However, the psychological effects of burn injuries do not receive as much attention, even though the impacts on a victim’s health and well-being can be just as significant. Psychological distress, especially post-traumatic stress disorder, may even affect the physical healing process. A look at the psychological distress of burn injuries shows that the hidden pain victims endure is an extremely serious, relatively unknown phenomenon.

Common Forms of Psychological Distress

Emotional anguish occurs in some form for almost all victims of burn injuries. The effects may include:

  • Feelings of sadness and depression due to the appearance of the burn injury;
  • Anger and irritability at the people or circumstances that caused the accident;
  • Anxiety about the future, especially when the injuries limit independence and require care from family or friends;
  • Difficulties falling asleep or staying asleep, often due to nightmares about the accident which caused the burns;
  • Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, which in extreme situations could lead to thoughts of suicide;
  • Alarm over how the burn wounds change in appearance and pain level as they heal; and,
  • Many other types of stress factors.

Note that many victims report feeling psychological distress within the days and weeks after the burn injury. About one-third of them continue to suffer emotional anguish up to two years later.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

The Mayo Clinic defines PTSD as a mental health issue produced by an event that shocks or terrifies the person who experiences or witnesses it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, night terrors, and severe angst, typically brought on by different categories of reactions. It is common for a victim to endure:

  • Intrusive Memories, which may include recurrent, unwanted memories, nightmares that cause distress, reliving the burn trauma, and physical responses to the recollection of events;
  • Avoidance, such as refusal to think or talk about the event, avoiding places and activities that serve as reminders, mood swings, repressing memories, feeling detachment, and emotional numbness; and,
  • Changes in emotional or physical responses to stimuli, including becoming easily startled or anxious, fear of falling asleep, substance abuse, engaging in destructive behavior, trouble concentrating, and angry outbursts.

Effects of PTSD and Psychological Distress on the Healing Process

One of the most adverse impacts of psychological issues or PTSD for victims of burn injuries is that mental instability can actually disrupt the healing process. Studies have shown that distress can:

  • Hinder the body’s immune system;
  • Increase itchiness and discomfort associated with healing;
  • Reduce a victim’s motivation in rehabilitation therapy;
  • Negatively impact communication efforts with care takers; and,
  • Interrupt sleep routines.

Discuss Psychological Effects of Burn Injuries with a Knowledgeable Charleston Burn Injury Lawyer

At Walker Morgan, our lawyers have decades of experience representing victims in connection with both the physical and psychological effects of burn injuries. If you would like to know more about our legal services, please contact us today to schedule a consultation.

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