Frequently, people who have been injured in a collision or other traumatic event will develop depression – especially if the injuries result in chronic pain, brain injury or catastrophic impairment. Having to face the sudden loss of good health and cope with an injury severe enough to render the person dependent on others for support can result in feelings of inadequacy and helplessness. Often, there are chemical and hormonal changes in response to injury that produce depression and anxiety.
Redirected Frustration and Anger
In many cases, depression following physical injury can begin as frustration and anger that is directed inward by an injured person with no constructive outlets. Internalized anger as a result of disability and having to deal with ongoing pain and impairment can produce a severe depressive reaction. This is especially common in people who are naturally introspective and empathetic, as they typically do not want to burden friends and family members with their problems.
Minimizing the Impact
In order to minimize the impact that depression and anxiety can have on an injured person, prompt assessment and treatment by mental health professionals and potentially, chronic pain specialists is necessary. Counseling and cognitive behavioral therapy, specifically tailored to treating depression caused by injury, can provide insight into the nature of the condition and techniques for resisting its effects. Medication including antidepressants, anxiolitics, sleep aids and pain relievers, may assist with recovery and symptom management, though care must be taken to ensure that the injured person avoids chemical dependency issues if possible.
In tandem with psychological and pharmacological treatment, physical therapy is an essential element in treating or managing injury-related depression. Even in cases of chronic pain caused by injury, physiotherapy, massage and other modes of treatment not only increase strength and range of movement, they can help to restore confidence and self-esteem to an injured person. This, in turn, improves the person’s ability to cope with the extent of her injuries, including the mental and emotional components of those injuries.
Coping Strategies for Family and Friends
The family and friends of a seriously injured person often face similar struggles adapting to the impact of injuries to their loved ones on the family dynamic. Apart from sympathy for the injured person’s pain, family and friends often experience guilt or remorse, frustration and anger. When the loved one’s injuries are severe enough to require attendant care, the lives of the entire household are disrupted. However, many of the same coping strategies for survivors of debilitating injuries are also beneficial for caregivers or support people. Counseling with social workers and other professionals is highly recommended. Acknowledging the issues and developing strategies will benefit not only the family and friends, but most importantly, the injured person.
Although communication concerning mental illness is less stigmatized than in previous generations, it is still commonly brushed aside or ignored in many cases. If you or a loved one has been involved in a collision or other trauma and have suffered significant injuries, it is important and often crucial to recovery that depression and other psychological injuries from the collision are identified, assessed and treated immediately. Without this treatment, the prospect of full recovery is greatly reduced.
We are happy to discuss these issues with you in greater detail.