Psychological Effects of Catastrophic Injuries

Suffering from a catastrophic injury changes life as you know it. In the blink of an eye, things are different. You have medical bills. You’re unable to work. Things that you used to take for granted may suddenly seem impossible.

Not all your damages are physical. Psychological injuries are a common part of almost any serious accident. It’s important to be aware of the possibility of psychological injuries when you’re hurt in a catastrophic accident. You may deserve financial compensation for mental health damages as well as your physical injuries.

Psychological Impact of Injury

The psychological effects of a catastrophic injury may be mild, moderate or severe mental health trauma. An individual may suffer from a range of mental injuries, including depression and anxiety.

The severity of mental injury may correlate to the depth of associated physical wounds, but every case is different. Psychological effects of catastrophic injury may be direct from having lived through the physical trauma of the accident. They may also be a secondary result of the physical harm that the victim sustains.

What Does Psychological Injury Mean?

Psychological injury means damage to mental health and well-being. Just like the body may be injured, an accident may also damage the mind. A psychological injury is a negative change in mental health functioning or well-being because of a traumatic event.

What Are Some Mental Health Injuries That Occur Because of an Accident?

There are a wide variety of mental health illnesses and injuries that can result from an accident. Some examples of mental health injuries that occur because of an accident include:

  • Depression
  • Frustration and regret
  • Anxiety
  • Overly cautious behavior; unusually risky behavior
  • An inability to complete daily takes or self-care
  • Substance abuse, including drugs, alcohol and prescription medications
  • Loss of appetite or increased appetite; weight loss or gain
  • PTSD
  • Reliving the trauma over and over
  • Adjustment Disorder (an inability to adapt to a new life); loss of purpose
  • Difficulty sleeping; sleeping too much
  • Mood swings, frequent crying
  • Anger, rage and violent behavior
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty maintaining meaningful relationships
  • Ongoing fear of reinjury

Some injuries are a direct result of living through a traumatic event. PTSD and reliving the traumatic event are two examples. Other injuries may be secondary from the struggles that accompany recovery and adjusting to life after the accident.

How Does an Injury Affect Your Life?

An injury may affect your life in ways that are both physical and mental. It may impact the ability to engage in daily life activities. Pursuing career and personal goals may be put on hold or changed. An injury affects not only the individual but also the relationship between family members.

Totaling up the physical injuries and the cost of treatment does not measure the full extent of how a catastrophic injury affects the victim’s life. Mental anguish is a significant part of most severe injuries. These mental injuries are as needing and deserving of treatment as physical injuries. Mental injuries can slow recovery, interfere with daily life and cause significant suffering for victims.

What Is the Psychological Impact of Injury?

According to the US National Library of Medicine1, psychological impact usually accompanies a physical injury. In a study of patients who experienced a motor vehicle injury, researchers found rates of depression in 67% of participants, anxiety in 87% of participants and PTSD varying across studies. They say that injury victims are more likely than not to display some mental health injury symptoms along with a traumatic physical accident.

A physical injury causes a sudden interruption to a person’s routine and impacts their sense of security. Limitations to physical injuries can cause disappointment, frustration and worry. In some cases, direct brain trauma can occur, although it is often hard to detect and diagnose. Also, the physical pain that accompanies an injury can take a mental and emotional toll. Each person responds differently to trauma, and of course, each injury itself is different. It’s important to remember that the psychological impact of injury is common, and symptoms may vary.

Coping With the Effects of a Catastrophic Injury

Once you recognize that mental health injuries often accompany physical injuries, you can seek ways to cope. Here are some ways to cope with the psychological effects of injury:

  1. Seek treatment: You’re not alone. Others have been there before. Mental health professionals can give you the tools to address your injuries and find relief.
  2. Think positive: Making a positive decision to take care of your mental health can put you on the right track.
  3. Set realistic goals: Having tangible goals and a plan of action can help you take daily steps to further your mental health.
  4. Accept support: Look for channels of support, including friends, family and support groups. These people want to help, and they can provide physical, mental and emotional support.
  5. Allow your feelings: As you heal, you’re bound to have ups and downs. It’s okay. Accepting your emotions can help you make progress and avoid feeling discouraged.
  6. Think on thoughts: Thought stopping, thought replacement and positive self-talk could help in mental health care.
  7. Breathing techniques: Learning breathing techniques can help you pause and reset when necessary.
  8. Stress coping: Suffering from a severe injury is stressful. Learning stress-coping techniques can help.
  9. Medication: If it’s appropriate, medication can be one part of a complete mental health treatment program. A person should only take medicines under the supervision of a qualified professional.
  10. Find activities that you enjoy: A critical part of mental health is staying engaged. Within your limitations, find activities that you enjoy.

Financial Compensation for Mental Health Injuries

When you’re hurt in a catastrophic accident, the law recognizes mental health damages as part of your claim. You may recover financial compensation to the extent that mental injuries cause a diminished quality of life and limitations to activities, including work. In addition, you may recover for the fact that a mental health injury causes suffering and anguish.

Our attorneys are experienced in handling catastrophic injury claims that result in mental health damages. If you’re suffering from the psychological effects of brain injury, psychological effects of spinal cord injury, or any other catastrophic injury, contact us today to talk about your case.


1Kellezi, B., Coupland, C., Morriss, R., Beckett, K., et al. (2017, July). The impact of psychological factors on recovery from injury: A multicentre cohort study. Retrieved 23 February 2021.