How physical injury can affect mental health

Graphic showing woman sitting on floor looking sad whilst her shadow behind her is kind of evil looking

When our bodies stop working as they should, it usually follows that our minds come under increased pressure.

Physical injury tends to affect mental health, creating challenges for the person who has suffered it. One Canadian study of 20,000 patients found an increased risk of mental health problems for at least a decade after the event. And this finding would seem to chime with common sense.

How can physical injury affect mental health?

In some cases, the physical pain caused by an injury can contribute to stress and anxiety. In others, it’s the lack of mobility, and the indirect changes in life circumstances, that can be more consequential.

It might be that the circumstances surrounding the injury are what cause the mental health problems. In cases where the injury was sustained in traumatic circumstances, the patient might find that they suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder long after the physical symptoms of the injury have been dealt with. This is a problem that can persist over time, and be exacerbated by certain triggers – like a return to the scene of the accident.

In a minority of cases, a direct head injury can result in mental health issues. Trauma to the brain might cause inflammation, which might then cause difficulty in regulating mood.

What mental health symptoms do physical injuries bring?

So, precisely what symptoms might we expect? The answer will depend on the injury itself.

It’s very common for severe physical injuries to require a period of rehabilitation and recovery, during which the patient’s ability to move as normal will be restricted. This can put the patient in a continuous state of depression and anxiety, especially if exercise was a source of fulfilment in their lives beforehand.

Where the recovery looks to be protracted and difficult, the patient might have feelings of worry, guilt, or hopelessness. They might lose interest in the world around them, or even feel suicidal.

Getting help for mental health

The important thing here is to understand that mental health problems are normal in this situation, and that help is often available. Make sure that you’re taking advantage of available professional help. This might take the form of a pharmaceutical intervention, or it might consist of therapy and counselling.

Financial and legal support can also help to drive down stress. Seek out solicitors that match your injury. Brain injury claims, for example, can be intricate processes which are best pursued by those with a proven track record.

Reaching out to loved ones

It isn’t just medical professionals who can lend support during this difficult time. Friends and family can also play a role, simply by making themselves available. Sometimes, the patient might want to talk about their injury and how it is affecting them; in other cases, a distraction might be required. A supportive friend or family member can often provide help by simply being present and compassionate.