Published on October 18, 2023

The Psychological Impact of Amputations

The loss of a limb can have profound consequences for a person’s physical, as well as psychological, well-being. 

Amputations are performed for a range of reasons. You might be suffering from gangrene, or diabetes-related complications. The limb might have been infected, damaged, or otherwise deformed. Diabetes alone accounts for more than a hundred amputations a week in the UK – and this number is rising. 

If you’re facing the reality of amputation, then there are a number of consequences you might prepare yourself for. Let’s take a look at them.

The physical and emotional trauma of amputation

The most obvious consequence of amputation is a loss of mobility. If you have a toe amputated, then you’ll struggle to walk as well as you once did. If you lose your fingers or hands, then simple tasks like making tea might suddenly pose a challenge.

On top of this, we have to consider phantom limb pain, muscle spasms, and associated problems, which afflict many amputees. You might also find that the loss makes movement more taxing, energy-wise – and this can lead to fatigue.

Common emotional responses

The psychological consequences of the loss can be just as troubling, especially if the amputation came about suddenly. If the amputation was traumatic, then the victim might suffer from the symptoms of PTSD – these being:

  • Flashbacks
  • Rage
  • Anxiety
  • Sleep problems
  • Depression

If you have a mental picture of yourself that’s suddenly interrupted, then you might come to view yourself as broken or otherwise faulty. This might lead to social isolation – even if the people you’re isolating yourself from have no negative feelings toward you.

If your amputation leads to a slump in general activity, then you might end up losing out on all of the psychological benefits of exercise, too.

Coping strategies

The good news is that most amputees go on to lead rich and fulfilling lives, in spite of their injuries. Some might even challenge themselves in entirely new ways. For example, you might find a new way to attack an already-existing hobby. Rock-climbing, swimming, dancing, art – they can all be performed by amputees. Staying active will afford you a range of health benefits, and stave off depression, too.

In cases where blame can be assigned, you might wish to pursue a legal remedy. Amputation claims can help sufferers to get the financial support they need to deal with their injuries. 

What can be invaluable is the support of your closest friends and family, and of healthcare professionals. Forming connections with other amputees will also tend to be rewarding, since they’ll have a unique understanding of what you’re going through. 

Avoid maladaptive coping strategies, like hiding your feelings, avoiding the problem, or making yourself reliant on others.

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