How Spinal Cord Injuries Affect Mental and Emotional Well-Being

Updated on February 7, 2023 by

Spinal Cord Illustration

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When we experience a deliberating illness or injury, it can affect our mental and emotional states. Depression from injury is a common side-effect of most physical impairments. It’s important to know that you’re not alone and that this pain is a part of the healing process.


10 Ways Spinal Cord Injuries Can Affect Well-Being


It’s essential to be aware of the mental and emotional toll that spinal cord injuries can have on someone’s life. Here are 10 ways that spinal cord injuries can affect mental well-being.


1. Anxiety


You may worry about how others perceive your disability or if they’ll judge you for it, leading to high levels of stress and anxiety in social situations. Agoraphobia may occur if the patient is afraid of leaving the house alone, open or closed spaces, or being in crowds and busy lines.


2. Fear


Fear is an emotion that’s closely linked with anxiety. However, this fear could manifest differently depending on the injury or upcoming surgeries. For example, while surgical treatment for tumors in the back might be helpful, it may cause fear in patients if the risk for complications is high.


3. Loneliness


Spinal cord injuries often require a significant amount of time in recovery, during which you may not be able to work or engage with people as much as you would like. This can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation. To avoid this, try to call your friends and family when you can.


4. Low Self-Esteem


It is common for people with spinal cord injuries to feel inadequate or less than others because they cannot do the things they were once able to do before their injury occurred. This lack of self-confidence can lead them into a downward spiral if left unchecked, impacting their lives.


5. Grief

Grief is a complex emotion that follows after a loss. When something or someone you love is taken away, grief is experienced. If your injury limits your mobility for an extended amount of time, you may feel prolonged grief. This period may extend if you’re permanently disabled.


6. Anger


Anger is a masquerading emotion, as it could be experienced by people who aren’t in touch with other emotions. In some cases, individuals may find themselves angry because they can’t control what’s happening to them. They may feel like they’re going through a downward spiral.


7. Depression


The physical limitations associated with spinal cord injuries may prevent you from engaging in activities that used to make you happy or feel fulfilled, leading to depression. Depression from injury, accounting for 18.1% of injured patients, makes it harder for patients to return to normal.


8. Denial


Denial is an emotion often seen after a spinal cord injury, sometimes after years of recovery time. It can be difficult to come to terms with the injury, especially if it affects their movement. Letting go is the first step to mental health recovery, but it’s often the hardest thing to do.


9. Guilt


Guilt could possibly arise if their injury occurred due to an accident they caused. Alternatively, guilt may be expressed if the spinal cord injury caused them to need professional care. They may look back at the situation and think, “what could have been” if they did something different.


10. Frustration


Frustration could be felt due to another emotion, such as depression from injury, or because they aren’t recovering fast enough. Frustration is especially common in patients that have to learn skills or navigate life differently. Failure to adjust to a new life will also cause frustration.


Understanding how spinal cord injuries affect a person’s mental health can help patients overcome them. They can also help others become more empathetic to those suffering.

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