The psychology of burn injuries

Severe burns are among the most life-changing injuries a person can suffer. Burns are incredible painful, can cause severe disfigurement and often stem from traumatic events that make emotional recovery a long-term process. If your loved one suffered a serious burn, understanding the psychological impact their injury may cause can be helpful and allow you to support them throughout their rehabilitation.

What causes psychological distress in burn victims? 

According to the Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center, there are many factors that can create emotional distress in burn victims. The most obvious cause may be physical pain, but psychological distress can continue long after wounds are physically healed. Simply remembering the injury or the event that caused it can bring up feelings of distress. Even remembering how the wounds looked, if they were particularly severe, can be difficult to bear. 

As we mentioned earlier, serious burn injuries can cause significant scarring. If a victim’s scars are in visible places, such as the face, arms or legs, learning to cope with a new appearance is not easy. It is often made more difficult when others stare or make unwelcome comments. 

While these are not the only causes of emotional distress in burn victims, they may help you understand what your loved one is feeling while recovering from a burn injury.

What feelings of distress do burn victims experience?

The types of psychological distress caused by burn injuries are unique from person to person, but many people experience some of the same feelings, including anxiety, hopelessness and irritability. Others have trouble sleeping, difficulty concentrating and low energy levels. 

Burn injuries often lead to a new lifestyle that is not easy to adjust to. Many people feel frustrated that they have to depend on others for help more than they used to. Others feel embarrassed or angry about the way people react to their scars. 

Although some people’s emotional stress after burn injuries subsides after weeks or months, others take longer to heal. If your loved one is experiencing ongoing difficulties in coping with his or her injuries, speaking to a medical professional may be beneficial. For now, we hope that this information helps you better understand what your loved one may be experiencing during recovery.