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Understanding the Psychological Impact After a Burn Injury

Understanding the Psychological Impact After a Burn Injury

House fires, car accidents, and refinery explosion are traumatic experiences that result in severe injuries. Typically, events that cause fires or explosions result in severe burn injuries. Burn wounds require a long healing process, and in some cases, cause life-long scarring. Physical disfigurement can dramatically destroy a person’s mental state, leading to long-term emotional problems. To better cope with the unexpected, it is important to understand the psychological impact after a burn injury.

Accidents, fires and explosion are sometimes caused by no fault of the victims. If you believe your burn injuries were caused by the negligence of another, it is best to contact a personal injury lawyer who is experienced in burn injury cases. To better understand the mental effects of burn injuries, please read below:

Acute Stress Disorder (ASD)

Directly after a traumatic experience, a burn victim might have a minor response of anxiety. This is normal and expected for a short period after suffering a severe injury, such as a burn. However, if the anxiety persists or worsens, it could be the warning signs of ASD, which is the intense and unpleasant reaction to the trauma that the person has faced. Patients that are going through this will show symptoms that include depersonalization, derealization, emotional numbing, and a reduction of awareness.

ASD is treatable and remedies such as cognitive behavior therapy and mindfulness techniques are commonly used to help ASD patients. It’s also important for burn victims to avoid hearing details about the incident. If the patient is well enough, they should seek therapy to treat their ASD after suffering a severe burn injury.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

If patients do not recover from their ASD, the long term disorder results in PSTD. PTSD is defined as a condition in which a person regularly goes through emotional distress due to a traumatic event. This stress will cause them to relive the traumatic event repeatedly, disrupting their sleep and many other normal daily functions. Close to half of all burn victims will experience some level of PTSD within their first year post-accident.

Typically, there are four stages of PTSD victims of burn injuries go through:

  1. Impact Stage – Occurs immediately after the event. During this time, the patient has trouble coping with and comprehending what has just happened.
  2. Denial Stage – During this stage, the victim denies the fact that the event even happened. They are in such a state of disbelief that the only way they can deal with the horrid memories is to believe that they didn’t actually happen.
  3. Short-Term Recovery Stage – Once a person accepts what they have been through, they can move on to the Short-Term Recovery Stage. This is where the patient starts to find ways to cope with what they’ve been through and find ways to continue life as normal.
  4. Long-Term Recovery Stage – At this point, it’s important for the patient to seek out therapy or support groups. With outside help, they can start to find ways to return to the life they used to know. Stress inoculation training and prolonged exposure therapy are only two examples of ways that someone with PTSD can recover from their anxiety and stress disorders.

Pain After the Fact

Although pain is physical, dealing with prolonged chronic pain can lead to diminished mental health. The primary remedy is to find ways ease the pain. Wounds caused by burns require long healing and recovery time. Some burn injuries can last up to 10 years. Constant aching can lead to fatigue, mood swings, trouble sleeping or concentrating, or even a consistent loss of appetite. Long term pain management arrangements may be required to ease the onset of depression and decreased self-esteem.


Although pain from burn injuries can lead to depression, depression can also be caused by the event itself and resulting life effects. As soon as the shock of the accident has worn off, depression can set in, and if the burns are severe enough to leave permanent scarring, depression will likely persist. Even though plastic surgery is an option, the idea that they might come out of it looking like an entirely different person will cause the depression to continue. Additionally, knowing that one may not be able to do their job again or will continuously need help with daily activities can cause depression. Luckily, most cases of depression can be mitigated and even cured with therapy or medications.

No matter the cause or severity, the patient should seek out help in order to overcome their depression symptoms caused by suffering severe burn injuries.

Long-Term Effects

Regardless of whichever of the above clinical issues the burn victim is suffering from, it is vital that they seek help to try to improve their mental health. Many long-term mental health effects could arise from leaving issues untreated. Understanding the psychological impact on burn victims is vital to the wellbeing of those affected. If mental health is not addressed, psychological problems such as short attention spans and memory issues could develop. Other body-related problems like a weakened immune system, poor digestion, and high blood pressure can occur as mental health continues to diminish.

If ASD, PTSD, or depression show up before the patient has fully recovered from their physical burn injuries, they could lead to complications in the healing process.

If you or a loved one are experiencing negative mental health effects after suffering a traumatic burn injury, be sure to consult with a medical professional as soon as possible. If you were injured as a result of a burn that was not your fault, it is important you speak to a qualified burn injury attorney at once. If you believe you are the victim of negligence, contact a burn injury lawyer at The Patel Law Firm. The injury lawyers at the Patel Law Firm have experience with serious burn injury cases and understand the type of representation necessary to properly represent an injured person who has been the victim of a burn injury. Contact us today by calling us at (361) 400-2036.

Understanding the Psychological Impact After a Burn Injury

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