Advice on psychological injury support
Posted by: Carol C Sharp – Psychological Therapist
Just as there are lots of different types of physical injuries one may encounter following an accident, there are different ways in which one can be impacted by psychological injury, too. Anxiety, Depression, Phobias and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder may be experienced after a traumatic event and the severity of impact can vary from one person to another.
It is difficult, therefore, to put an estimated time for recovery from a psychological ‘injury.’ Everyone manages life after a traumatic event in different ways and there are always other contributory factors as to why one person experiences the aftermath of such an experience differently to someone else. Much depends on other factors, such as previous trauma, life experiences, relationships, family circumstances, physical and psychological health and bereavement, to name but a few.
Experience shows that reactions to traumatic incidents usually fade as time passes. However, one may notice that in the months following a traumatic event, they either start, or continue, to experience some of the following symptoms:
- Sleep disturbance (difficulty/fearful of going to sleep)
- Change in personality (impatient, withdrawn, intolerant, low mood etc.)
- Tiredness and lethargy
- Lack of motivation
- Deterioration in work performance
- Lack of concentration
- More accident prone
- Change in eating/drinking/smoking habits
- Deterioration in relationship
- Loss of sexual drive
- More or less sociable
- More reliant on medication
It is important to highlight that it is absolutely normal to experience any of the above symptoms in the immediate aftermath of an abnormal event. If, however, these thoughts and feelings continue in the longer term it may be beneficial to seek the support of a trauma therapist. For those individuals who are supporting someone who is struggling psychologically, the following advice may be beneficial to you.
“Be very mindful of the impact the incident has on oneself”
One very important factor when supporting someone who has been physically/psychologically injured is to be very mindful of the impact the incident has on oneself. All the attention, usually, goes to supporting the injured party whilst a partner/family member/wife/husband is required to continue managing the everyday things in life that require attention e.g. running the house, childcare responsibilities and working as well as tending to the needs of the injured party.
It is very easy to get absorbed in everybody else’s needs and neglect oneself. It is vitally important that the ‘carer’ takes time to look after him/herself, emotionally, physically, nutritionally, socially, in order to maintain one’s own health and wellbeing. The more one looks after oneself the easier it will be to look after others.
“Gain a deeper understanding”
It may be useful to gain a deeper understanding of the impact that a traumatic event can have on people’s perspectives on life. Things that were of value or importance can suddenly seem insignificant and meaningless and the importance of life, attitudes, beliefs and values suddenly has greater meaning after such an experience. The impact of the psychological experience may not be evident until weeks, months or even years after the physical scars have healed.
“Communicate sensitively any concerns or worries”
For those caring and supporting loved ones after an accident it is so important to communicate sensitively any concerns or worries one has about the injured party and the easiest way to express oneself is to own one’s own feelings. By saying, “I feel that things have changed between us…” or “I feel very concerned about you as I notice that you seem much quieter/more angry/less interested…” Always starting the statement with “I feel” enhances the likelihood of being ‘heard/understood’ very differently.
The recognition of mental health and psychological injury has improved drastically in the last decade. However, psychological injury can be difficult for some people to understand, as there are no physical signs. After experiencing a minor physical injury there, usually, is an estimated period of time of recovery. However, psychological injury is a very individual experience and, therefore, there is no one set time frame of recovery. That said, the vast majority of individuals who have suffered with the psychological impact of a traumatic event make a full psychological recovery. The memory of the event can still be accessed from the memory bank but the pain attached to the event has gone.
If you or your loved one is showing any psychological symptoms having experienced an accident or any other traumatic event, seek professional advice and psychological support. Accessing psychological support as soon as possible after an incident can help to reduce the likelihood of possible longer term effects.
To find out more information on this topic or to contact Carol directly, visit www.carolcsharptherapy.co.uk.