Recovering from a sporting or workplace injury or other type of accident is more than just a physical process.
Studies have shown that psychological interventions positively influence injury recovery, mood during the recovery process, coping and confidence levels.
Just like it is important to talk with your physical health team about your recovery and the stages involved, to facilitate the best possible recovery from your injury, it is important to understand the different possible psychological responses to injury. There are a variety of factors that contribute to the emotional reactions to an injury. Generally we divide these into personal characteristics, situational characteristics, cognitive responses, behavioural responses, and emotional characteristics.
Personal Characteristics – are relatively stable attributes, and include:
- Demographics (age, gender, ethnicity, socio-economic status);
- Personality, self-perception, coping skills, anxiety, pain threshold;
- Physical factors such as current overall health, other illness.
Situational Characteristics – these are the characteristics that are related to the “how” of the injury:
- When the injury happened, severity, cause of injury.
Cognitive Characteristics – our thoughts and beliefs:
- Ability to adjust goals;
- Belief and attribution style (who/what is to blame);
- Sense of loss.
Behavioural Characteristics – how we behave:
- Adherence to rehabilitation and treatment;
- Use of social support available;
- Risk taking behaviours (drinking);
- Fear of the unknown, fear of re-injury;
- Frustration, boredom, grief;
- Lack of confidence.
Struggling after an Injury or Accident?
Many people who experience an injury recover well without any longstanding psychological or physical complications; while others will struggle.
So how can we identify if we or a friend, work colleague, or family member is not adjusting too well to an injury they have sustained? Here is a small checklist to review as a start:
- Feelings of anger and confusion;
- Obsession with the question of when they can return to work/sport/regular life;
- Denial (“The injury is no big deal”);
- Repeatedly returning to work too soon;
- Dwelling on minor physical conditions;
- Guilt about letting family/workplace/friends down;
- Withdrawal from significant others;
- Rapid mood swings;
- Stating that recovery will never occur.
If you recognise any of these signs in yourself or someone you know, it’s a good idea to book an appointment with a psychologist.
How a Psychologist can Help
When working with a client suffering after an injury or accident, treatment ideas and options will be discussed. Therapy may involve helping you to: identify and build upon the skills you already have; develop a plan with short and long term goals; challenge your negative cognitive (thinking) styles; improve the tone of your self-talk; learn relaxation skills; and maintain your motivation to continue during the recovery phase and beyond.
Author: Lauren Brockie, B Beh Sc, PG Dip Psych, M Psych (Sport & Exercise), M Psych (Clinical), MAPS.
Lauren Brockie is a Loganholme psychologist working with adults, couples, adolescents and children. Lauren is experienced in the area of pain management, adjustment to injury, and physical and psychological WorkCover claims, and enjoys supporting and challenging her clients, to assist them with reaching their goals.
To make an appointment with Lauren Brockie, try Online Booking – Loganholme or call M1 Psychology (Loganholme) on (07) 3067 9129.