The Psychological Effects of Physical Injuries
When people think about injuries, they usually only think about the physical realm of the issue. Of course, most of the damage of your average injury is usually inflicted on the body! When we think of injuries, we think of broken bones, cuts and gashes, sprains, pulled muscles, dislocated shoulders… a whole host of things that sound supremely unfun! These injuries will have several negative impacts on your life, although luckily, for the most part, it’s only in the short-term. Even those that leave you out of work for a while heal eventually.
But what often goes unexplored by many people when they think about injuries is the toll your mental health might take. An injury doesn’t just create physical trauma – it also inflicts psychological stress. Even an injury that doesn’t seem to have left too much of a mark on someone’s life in a physical sense may have quite profound negative effects on their mind.
What we’re talking about, of course, is post-traumatic stress disorder. But a lot of people don’t understand PTSD. When people think about it, they generally only think about people who have been psychologically affected by war zones! But PTSD comes in many forms – some mild, some severe – and the term can be applied to many sorts of psychological ills that come with physical injuries.
It’s important that we take the time to explore the sort of mental health issues that can come with injuries, along with the physical pains that come with them. So here’s a quick look at some of the ways in which physical injuries take their toll on someone’s mood and mindset.
Traumatic brain injury
A traumatic brain injury is, of course, a physical injury. And a physical injury to the brain will have a lot of implications on your mental health. One of the scary things about traumatic brain injuries is that they don’t always require a massive knock to the head in order to be sustained, and the effects aren’t always clear at first. You have have hit your head and felt not much more than a little dazed, with a headache settling in later. Taking some aspirin, drinking plenty of water, and getting some sleep will help get rid of the immediate pain. (And yes, you should go to sleep if you have a concussion, regardless of what the myths say!)
While short-term pain may be relieved, your brain may experience long-term effects from a sudden jolt or knock. The most common physical symptoms that indicate a traumatic brain injury are dizziness, oversensitivity to light, and fatigue. You must get yourself checked out if you’re experiencing these things. Over time, you may find that you have trouble remembering things and that your ability to concentrate has been shot. Your behavior may even become more impulsive. Even when the physical symptoms subside, it’s clear that long-term damage may have been done. Such an injury is actually a common reason for seeking the help of a personal injury lawyer. The psychological problems that come with a physical brain injury like this are much easier to link directly to the injury event, which makes an injury claim much easier to develop and defend in a court of law.
Fear and loss of confidence
An injury that takes place while engaging in a particular activity may make it very difficult to engage in that activity again. This can be the result of a simple lack of confidence, which can be a relatively simple thing to overcome over time. This is common in car accidents; someone who was at the wheel during a car crash may question their ability to drive safely, even if they weren’t at fault. This lack of confidence can start to creep into other areas of someone’s life, affecting their self-esteem.
The development of a long-term fear, however, can be more difficult to deal with. Let’s take the car accident example again. Though such a fear will generally be coupled with a lack of confidence, a fear that a crash will happen again is something quite different; even if you are still confident in your abilities, you may become convinced that someone else on the road will crash into you. This can become more severe and become an actual phobia. (The lead singer of Radiohead has a phobia of cars stemming from a car crash in the late 80s!) This can result in quite profound life disruptions if you rely on the affected activity.
Stress, isolation, and depression
Stress is part of the physical injury parcel, so a spike in stress is likely to be ignored as simply another symptom that goes along with the physical pain. But the problem here is that people forget just how damaging stress can be for your health. It certainly isn’t going to help you recover; in fact, stress can have the opposite effect. It can exacerbate and even prolong pain, which will make you more stressed, which will exacerbate and prolong pain, which will make you more stressed, which will exacer… well, you get the picture. You need to ensure that you’ve got a handle on stress during the recovery process.
Such prolonged pain can, of course, cause other problems relating to your mood. Injuries have been known to exacerbate depressive tendencies, and can even lead to their development in people who didn’t have many mood problems to begin with. A lot of us will face depression on a temporary basis at some point in our lives, but many still underestimate just how damaging it can be in the long-term. If you’re feeling depressed following an injury, no matter how much time has passed since the injury, you must make sure you speak to a professional.
Feelings of isolation – which, of course, can be a direct cause of both stress and depression – can be common after an injury. If you’ve been left housebound for a while, then not being able to get out and see people can leave you feeling particularly lonely. You may even start missing going to work (!). Make an effort to fight feelings of isolation – invite people over when you have the time. You should also make sure you talk to your friends about any negative feelings you have – this can help fight off further mood problems!