If you live with a burn injury, you may also live with emotional stress and instability. You may wonder, is that normal?
According to the Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center, psychological distress after a burn injury is a real phenomenon. Though most burn survivors do very well emotionally speaking, some individuals face many challenges following the traumatic incident. These challenges can interfere with an individual’s recovery and quality of life in general.
Symptoms of psychological distress
Psychological distress manifests differently in different individuals. However, if you live with a burn injury, you may experience one or several of the following:
- Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, sadness, anxiousness, irritability and loneliness
- Difficulty falling and staying asleep
- Difficulty enjoying activities that you once loved
You may also find that you become easily startled, and that you are always “on alert.” You may also avoid talking about the accident, the injury or anything that reminds you of either.
How psychological distress affects health and recovery
It is not uncommon for burn victims to experience emotional distress while in the hospital for the initial injury and in the days to weeks following their release. However, for most survivors, the periods of distress become less frequent and less traumatic within a couple of months. If this does not happen for you, it is important that you see, appropriate treatment. Failure to do so can have a severe adverse effect on your health and recovery.
Research shows that psychological distress affects the body in numerous ways. On a mental level, emotional stress can cause memory problems, reduce your attention span and impair your cognitive functioning. On a physical level, mental stress can impair your immune system and interfere with digestion. It can also exacerbate existing medical conditions, such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
Psychological distress can also interfere with your recovery. You may find that your pain and discomfort are amplified during periods of distress and that you are unwilling to participate in wound care or rehabilitation exercises. Your personal relationships may also suffer, which will only amplify your psychological distress.