The word "psychosocial", refers to the psychological and social aspects of healing from a burn injury. After all, a burn is more than just a skin-deep injury. The painful and potentially life-changing nature of burn injuries means that the impacts for people go beyond the physical, potentially affecting things like appearance, emotions, thoughts and social relationships. Unlike many other types of injuries, burns require sometimes very lengthy and complex treatment, for example surgery, exercises, splinting, pressure therapy, wound care, scar care and a myriad of other approaches, depending on each individual's needs. Some of the treatments that help patients to make recovery add an extra layer of stress and burden.
In addition to the physical challenges of recovering from burns, many patients experience psychological aspects of the injury. These can include traumatic stress reaction such as nightmares, flashbacks, feeling like something else might or will go wrong, feeling agitated or edgy and not being able to think about or do anything that reminds them of the injury incident. People sometimes feel that their mood is worse as a result of their injury. They can feel so down that they are unable to do some of the things that they could previously do without having to think about it or prepare. Some people don't feel like doing things that they previously enjoyed or try doing them and don't experience any pleasure. Some burns patients notice that they feel anxious or worried about the future and ruminate, meaning their thoughts get stuck on thinking about their problems without any solutions. A number of people who have had a burn injury already had a previous diagnosis of mental health condition such as anxiety, depression or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is very important that anyone experiencing any of these difficulties access mental health care to ensure they can make the best possible recovery after the added challenge of a burn injury.
The trauma of a burn injury can lead to a sense of isolation because people find that their family or friends don't fully understand what they're going through. Some people can inadvertently say or do things that leave burns patients feeling uncomfortable and going out in public can lead to uninvited questions and staring. It might also mean that going back to work or finding work is made difficult by the injury impacts. Additionally, having a burn injury can interrupt normal sexual functioning and intimate interactions. All of these experiences add to the physical demands of burns treatment and can be very upsetting. The aims of Burnslife include offering burns survivors a way to connect with others who understand and a way of seeking both information and support.
Burns also affect families and friends who often feel stressed, helpless and worried about the injured person. It can be very hard to see someone you care about go through something as distressing as a burn injury and all the necessary treatment involved in achieving the best possible recovery. Often, it's those closest to the patient who bear the brunt of their down times and frustration, which are normal but upsetting. Sometimes people who have experienced a burn injury can become withdrawn or outwardly agitated. It might be difficult for family and friends to recognise these new behaviors and conflict can result. Psychosocial care from social workers, psychologists, counsellors or psychiatrists can be crucial so that burns patients can thrive as well as survive their injuries with their families and friends feeling supported and informed as well. The "Burnslife Resource Booklet" Information for burns survivors, their families and friends, can be found on this website and provides more detail about these things and other helpful information to assist people to make a good psychosocial recovery.
Burnslife Resource Booklet