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The Psychological Effects of Serious Burn Injuries


People who have suffered serious burn injuries are all too familiar with the physical side of the injury. Fortunately, modern medicine has evolved over the decades to increase the survival rate and physical comfort of burn injury victims. However, such injuries come with hidden damage as well as physical damage and many patients suffer from severe psychological distress long after their physical injuries have started to heal.

Burn injury victims may experience psychological distress for a variety of reasons. The pain, the prognosis, and the lengthy treatments associated with burn injuries are just a few.

Other causes of related emotional or mental distress include the following:

  • Worries over scarring and changes in physical appearance
  • Memories of the incident that caused the burn
  • Concerns about the possible loss of independence and physical abilities
  • Worries about how the burn will affect intimate relationships
  • Concern over the financial burden of treatment and recovery

When it comes to the specific psychological distress that victims may experience, the symptoms are broad and can be far-reaching. Traumatic events like burns have an intensely personal effect and no two victims will react in exactly the same way.

Here are several of the most common psychological problems burn victims may experience.

  • Sadness, hopelessness, and feeling alone
  • A sense of being isolated or distant from loved ones
  • Insomnia or nightmares
  • Anxiety, tension, difficulty concentrating, and fatigue

Unfortunately, unaddressed psychological distress can interfere with a patient’s recovery and may worsen other medical problems. While a personal injury attorney cannot make a victim’s pain and distress go away, a lawyer can help in other ways. Helping burn patients who were injured due to negligence or misconduct recover maximum compensation is just one way an attorney can aid recovery.

The Reality of Burn Injury PTSD

Most medical experts agree that feeling helpless is common to victims after any form of trauma. It can become magnified, though, for burn victims. The mere prospect of having to undergo repetitive, painful physical treatments can wash away optimism. Just as it’s understood that there are stages of grief, burn care providers have identified that victims must work through certain phases of psychological recovery.

These include:

  • Restoring a sense of safety in the world
  • Mourning loss and incorporating the memory of it into one’s story
  • Reconnecting with life

Many readers might recognize that loss of the sense of safety in the world is a key element of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Many might be inclined to think PTSD is most prevalent in veterans returning from war, but experts know that’s not so. Any traumatic event – witnessed or endured – that prompts reactions of intense fear, horror, or helplessness defines PTSD. That certainly can be an issue with burn victims. Turning to a skilled attorney is one way of being confident that you will be able to get the care you need from the provider you want. 

Improving Quality of Life for Burn Victims

The psychological ramifications of burn injuries linger long after the acute phase of the injury has passed. Medical advances have improved the survivability of burns to such a degree that many burn patients who would have died a decade or two ago now can be predicted to live; yet, the quality of life issues remain. Data indicates that 30 percent of adults who survive their burns demonstrate chronic moderate to severe social and/or psychological problems. This is in contrast with the high adjustment rate of the majority of pediatric burn survivors.

Making sure that a burn patient is presented with opportunities for psychosocial treatment is vital. This should begin as early as possible to help patients transition successfully through each phase of the burn treatment process and extend far into their recovery and rehabilitation. However, all of these treatments — physical, psychological, and rehabilitative — come with hefty price tags. The last thing that an already traumatized burn patient needs is to worry about going bankrupt or burdening family due to their medical bills.

At Greene Broillet & Wheeler LLP, we understand the tremendous stresses burn patients undergo as they struggle to heal and resume some semblance of their old lives. We approach our clients with the utmost empathy and sensitivity possible and work with them every step of the way to make sure that their cases get the best possible resolution. Let us help you fight for the compensation to which you are entitled. 

Source: Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center, “Psychological Distress after Burn Injury,” accessed Aug. 04, 2016