As in Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) and Acquired Brain Injury (ABI), adjustment to a burn injury is a process. It involves a profound psychological adjustment. People injured by burns may experience
- Shock and disorientation
- Fear and anxiety
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
Issues specific to burns include:
- grief over loss of appearance or self-image;
- a drop in self-esteem;
- feelings of isolation or social phobia; and
- anxiety regarding their appearance and how people will react to it.
If you have been injured by burns, you may be capable of returning to work or taking care of your daily activities. Still, you could have emotional difficulties because of pain, emotional distress, and disfigurement.
- You may feel discomfort around your family and friends, leading to social withdrawal.
- Sleep disturbance is common, even after discharge from the hospital.
- If your injury was a result of an accident, you may have feelings of guilt and blame.
- You may be concerned about your ability to perform your job as well as before the injury.
- You may feel uncomfortable in the work place due to disfigurement. Your self- concept and the way you perceive your body might have changed.
- If you had burns over at least part of your body, it could have taken months of inpatient treatment and rehab interventions.
All of this can affect your emotional well-being.
For additional information about psychological reaction to burns, please contact a local mental health professional or view our list of resources.
Shock and Disorientation
Your immediate reaction to a severe burn may have been shock. Perhaps you appeared "distant" or felt "numb." This reaction is usually short-term, lasting a few days to a week.
Following the initial shock, you might experience emotional turmoil, nightmares of being burned again, sleep problems, or mental confusion and disorientation.
The quality of your family support and your medical care are key factors that will influence your healing and adjustment. There may also be local burn support groups to help you with the difficulties of returning to home and work.
For additional information about shock/disorientation and burns, please contact a local mental health professional or view our list of resources.
Fear and Anxiety
There is little question that you experienced fear and anxiety from the burn. In fact, excessive anxiety helped create your initial shock reaction. You may find yourself expressing fear and anxiety in varied ways:
- Feeling anger and withdrawal.
- Being needy for safety, security, and nurturing.
- Reverting to childlike behaviors when dealing with stress.
- Becoming aggressive, demanding, tearful, and more dependent on others.
- Focusing on thoughts of survival, comfort, and treatment procedures, which can influence your fear.
At the same time, your family is also experiencing emotional shock, anxiety, fear, panic, and even guilt. They may feel helpless as they try to resume their lives and at the same time assist you with your needs.
For additional information about fear and anxiety and burns, please contact a local mental health professional or view ourlist of resources.
It is normal for you to grieve the loss of function and your body image, so depression is a common occurrence following a burn.
You may become very discouraged about what you can and can't do. Perhaps you think you won't be able to play with your children, or provide for their emotional needs in the future. You might worry that your appearance will upset your spouse, thus interfering with your marital and sexual relationship. You may think you'll never work again and will have serious financial problems.
If you remain depressed much of the time, have difficulty sleeping, worry about your situation, or suffer loss of appetite, you should call a mental health professional to assist you.
For additional information about depression and burns, please contact a local mental health professional or view ourlist of resources.
Guilt is another reaction you could be experiencing from a burn.
You may be thinking "I should have done something to prevent the burn," "I should not have done.....," or "I can't do anything right." Feelings of guilt can also be associated with depression.
If you are suffering such negative feelings, you may want to discuss your emotional condition with your doctor.
For additional information about guilt and burns, please contact a local mental health professional or view our list of resources.
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
You could be at risk for post-traumatic stress disorder, especially if you had a thermal burn. Signs include
- Recurrent and intrusive recollections of the burn;
- Dreams of the event;
- Feeling like you are being burned again; or
- Psychological distress when the memory of the burn is triggered.
Even though the burn event has ended, you may still experience physical and mental suffering that is associated with it.
For additional information about posttraumatic stress disorder and burns, please contact a local mental health professional or view ourlist of resources.