A burn injury caused by a fire, a chemical spill or an electrical shock can cause devastating physical damage to skin, soft tissue, muscles, nerves and bone. Medical science on burn treatment has advanced considerably in recent years. Despite lasting scars, individuals who suffer burn injuries now have a much higher chance of making a complete physical recovery.
However, the psychological scars associated with a fire or burn injury may linger long after the wound has healed.
How Common Are Burn-Related Mental Health Problems?
In a 2011 study published in the journal Burns, 55 percent of burn injury patients studied were suffering from a mental health problem six months after their injury occurred.
Common conditions included anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Twelve percent of the patients had the symptoms required to diagnose post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The study also found that the more severe a burn was, the more likely a patient would have greater trouble with psychological disorders after the accident.
Why Do Psychological Problems Occur?
Therapists who treat PTSD and similar conditions often describe the depression, anxiety and stress that follow a traumatic event as “a normal response to an abnormal situation.”
Suffering psychological trauma after a burn injury or a fire does not mean that you are weak or wrong. Your brain is meant to respond to traumatic events in traumatic ways.
However, although this response is physiologically normal, it is also one that can have a significant impact on the rest of your life. Depression, anxiety, insomnia, flashbacks and other psychological symptoms may prevent you from moving forward mentally and emotionally, even though your body is physically healing.
Finally, burn injury survivors may be at a higher risk of psychological obstacles because the results of a burn injury are often “on display” for the entire world to see. You may be unable to hide the burn scars. Even if your scars can be covered by clothing, they may continue to hurt, pull and bother you physically – which also takes a toll on mental health.
How Can I Get Help?
For burn injury patients who need help managing their mental health after an accident, resources like this brochure from MADD can help point you in the right direction.
If your burn injuries resulted from an accident in the workplace, a car crash, or another event for which another person or company might be responsible, don’t be afraid to discuss your mental health challenges with your attorney. Your mental health following an accident is part of your overall health, and you deserve to be compensated for the damage to your mind and emotions just as much as the damage to your body.