Psychological Symptoms to Injury/Disability

It's difficult to acknowledge that something "bad" can happen to us. Most people think a "bad" accident will happen to another person, but not to them.

When an accident does happen, there is often a life-altering change in our physical and mental capability. Adjusting to these changes is a very stressful process for the injured person and their family.

The information here is meant to help injured people who are now adjusting to the changes in their lives. But it's also for family members who are trying to cope with the psychological changes in their loved one, and in themselves. It describes typical emotional responses to

It's important to know that you are going through a process, one that is difficult but not unusual. If you want to get in touch with others who have been through similar experiences, we have listed some resources that may prove helpful.

Early Emotional Responses

After an injury or illness, you may require assistance with basic daily activities. The changes you experience might be physical impairments, a change in your ability to think, or perhaps both! If you were independent before the injury, adjusting to "dependence" can be very frustrating.

As time goes on, you will begin to redefine who you are. You'll gain a better understanding of how the changes affect you and your family. Just as important, you'll learn how to deal with the changes in a constructive manner.

What feelings are you likely to experience early on? No two individuals will have exactly the same type of response. However, most will share similar feelings, which vary in intensity and duration:

  • Shock and disbelief. Looking back, events may seem "unreal."
  • Feelings of helplessness and confusion.
  • Anger, perhaps including issues of blame.
  • Fear and anxiety.
  • Frustration over your limitations or lack of "progress."
  • Grief for what you lost, such as the ability to walk, or the loss of "who I used to be."
  • Isolation. It's hard to believe anyone can understand what you're going through if they haven't experienced it themselves.
  • Simple indifference to all that has happened, and the desire to give up.

At first, in the hospital, the attention was probably on your physical needs. And those needs were critical at that time. Even if there was attention to your psychological and emotional responses, you might not have been ready to talk about it.

After you've been through inpatient rehabilitation and been discharged, you may begin to feel isolated, depressed, perhaps in despair. Concerns about income, future jobs, and the daily demands of life will take their toll on your well being.

You and your family have entered a world where you have limited experience. You don't understand all of your emotional responses. This period in your recovery is a critical time for you and your family. Counseling and support groups are ways to learn how to cope with the changes in your life.


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