What are the psychological aspects of amputation?
As a safety and health professional, there will inevitably be those trying times when you must counsel a worker who has lost a finger, multiple fingers, a hand, or an entire arm to a work-related injury.
As a non-medical professional, you are limited in what help you can provide. Simply being there for the amputee, visiting him or her in the hospital and later at home, is a comfort. Simply listening with compassion and few words on your part also can help.
It will help you to review the famed five stages of the grieving process that many amputees will experience, here explained by Saul Morris, PhD:
Denial is usually experienced by people who go through traumatic amputations, and normally those who have had surgical amputations will not experience it.
Often people will blame God, the doctor, or others for their loss.
In this stage, patients may attempt to postpone the reality of amputation, and most patients will try to bargain with their doctor or through a higher authority such as a religious figure.
In this stage, anger is replaced by depression. This is probably the most complicated stage of grief, but it too will go away. This is not clinical depression. It is normal. Common symptoms include sleeping either too much or too little, negative feelings about the environment and the future, feelings of hopelessness, and talking about death. Depression is not a sign of weakness, however, and should not be seen as such. It is treatable, and you should not hesitate to seek help from your doctor, nurse, family and friends.
Acceptance and Hope
Eventually, the harm individual will come to terms with their loss and start living again. This is more easily achieved if the person has a visit from a peer counselor who has been through this entire process and can give some tips on coping with loss.
Although complicated grief is not common in amputee patients, you should be aware of its symptoms, which include severe isolation, violent behavior, suicidal ideation, workaholic behavior, severe or prolonged depression, nightmares, and avoiding reminders of the amputation. If the patient does experience any of these symptoms, it’s your job to inform appropriate medical professionals.
For more information, visit www.amputee-coalition.org