Psychological Amputation: How Workplace Amputations Affect More Than Your Appearance
Physical trauma accounts for roughly 12 percent of disability in the United States. Although this percentage may not seem very high, it’s one of the highest rates for a single cause that results in missed work. In other words, physical trauma results in more missed work, workers’ compensation claims, and disability reviews than any other single disorder.
That being said, “physical trauma” is a pretty broad category that can include anything from broken bones to brain damage to the psychological effects of a traumatic injury. Therefore, let’s narrow the field to give you a better understanding of how a specific traumatic injury can not only limit your physical ability to work, but also your mental ability.
Specifically, we’ll focus on the psychological effects of an amputation.
According to the Amputee Coalition, there are currently about two million people in the United States who have suffered a lost limb. Every year, this number grows by approximately 185,000 amputees as a result of vascular disease (54%), cancer (2%), and physical trauma (45%). The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that workplace accidents account for roughly 11,000 of these amputations, some of which prove to be fatal.
Work-related amputations most often occur as a result of unsafe or unguarded machinery. If a piece of equipment is insufficiently safeguarded, when a worker’s hand, leg, or other extremity accidentally gets too close to the unprotected machinery, it can be pulled in, lacerated, and mangled by the machine’s moving parts. If the limb isn’t completely chewed off or severed, the resulting injuries may require surgical amputation. Common types of machinery that have been known to cause amputations include power presses, conveyors, printing presses, food slicers, grinders and saws, drill presses, and milling shears, and slitters.
Psychological Effects of Amputation and Mourning Your Lost Limb
Regardless of the cause of your amputation, losing a limb can be emotionally devastating. When you lose an arm or a leg in a workplace accident, your injury is immediately visible, traumatizing, and permanent. Even after your wounds heal, you’ll have a permanent reminder of the accident. Although your life was spared, this reminder will force you to confront a range of emotions in an attempt to deal with the fact that you lost a part of yourself.
It’s essential that you go through the five stages of grief, as established by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, M.D., to overcome your emotional distress. We often hear about these stages when a person dies, but for an amputation you’re essentially mourning the physical loss of the limb as well as the life you had prior to the accident.
The five stages of grief are:
- Denial. Although an amputation is hard to ignore, many amputees will go through a short-lived period where they refuse to acknowledge the fact that the accident occurred. Some will even try to convince themselves that the accident couldn’t have happened and therefore the amputation must not have occurred either.
- Anger. Once denying the obvious is no longer practical, anger will come in to replace rejection. Amputees will most often try to reconcile their misfortune by passing the blame onto someone else. Whether toward an employer, a coworker, God, etc., anger can help you come to terms with the reality of the situation.
- Bargaining. Depending on the circumstances, bargaining may be the first stage. In cases where the limb may require surgical amputation, you may find yourself negotiating with your doctor or a higher power to prevent the inevitable. For instance, stating that you’ve learned your lesson so there’s no need to take your limb; or, promising to join the Peace Corp and dedicate your life to helping others if God will spare your arm.
- Depression. This stage is perhaps the most difficult and long-lasting of the bunch. In this stage, anger is replaced by anxiety, sadness, and a feeling of helplessness. This reaction is completely normal and is different from clinical depression. Common symptoms include fatigue or sleeplessness, feelings of hopelessness, and negativity toward the future. It’s important to know that depression is not a sign of weakness. However, you shouldn’t hesitate to seek help to alleviate your symptoms and gather support.
- Acceptance and hope. Eventually, you will reach the last stage of grief and come to terms with your loss. Although you’ll always have a reminder, when you have a strong support system and people who are willing to fight for you, you’ll look toward the future rather than dwell in the past.
Physical and Mental Recovery
Therapy and counseling are essential components of an amputee’s recovery. You may be dealing with serious body image issues, guilt or anxiety over returning to work, or feelings of helplessness. A solid support system outside of therapy is also incredibly important to help keep you on track throughout the stages as well as help to build confidence and mental stability.
Professional counseling can be a valuable resource in dealing with the grief of losing a limb and adjusting to the new limits of your life. Workers’ compensation can pay for the expense of therapy following a work-related amputation in Texas.
To learn more about workplace accidents, recovery, and compensation, please feel free to browse our collection of informative blogs, guides, and resources. To speak with an experienced attorney about a recent workplace injury, contact our office today to schedule your FREE case evaluation. A push of a button is all you need to have the protection and guidance of a firm that is willing to fight to ensure your post-injury future is as productive and financially secure as possible. Click or call today!