Traumatic Amputations and Psychological Distress

By Matt Lalande in Personal Injury on June 25, 2019

Traumatic Amputations and Psychological Distress

Traumatic limb amputation is a catastrophic injury which is sudden and emotionally devastating for the victims.  The traumatic amputation of any limb has a devastating impact on the individual as well as their families and loved ones. It is a permanent, irreversible action that has the capacity to leave the individual visibly disfigured and physically limited.  Most of the time, amputation happens without warning and on an urgent basis, such as after a motorcycle accident or car accident, which can cause significant emotional trauma as the individual must now adjust to this sudden change.  Losing a body part is often associated with the feeling of losing a large piece of one’s self and self-worth. Therefore, an individual who has undergone an amputation may also lose their sense of self-worth, relationships, career aspects, sexuality, and general function, while also experiencing body issues and self-esteem issues. As a result, many amputees become increasingly physically and emotionally distressed, which can render that individual vulnerable to psychiatric disorders and mental illness. 

About Traumatic Limb Amputations

The Traumatic Amputation of a limb has been reported to be a significantly stressful event for an accident victim since it represents an irreversible surgical option which may result in physically challenged and bodily disfigurement. Typically, amputation as a surgical option is resorted to in circumstances where salvaging a limb is simply not possible, and the remaining part of the limb tissue needs excision.  In Ontario, the surgical amputation of a limb can be an elective procedure or an emergency procedure. Sometimes trauma inflicted during a car accident or motorcycle accident can result in partial amputation which needs to be surgically completed to avoid complications.

Many psychologists in the field of accident law have reported that amputation or the traumatic loss of a limb is typically equated with loss of spouse and even death. This can result in a victim being severely affected emotionally and result in poor quality of life.The loss of the limb may cause distress not only due to the loss of a body part but also due to the victim’s role limitation and the need for adjustment to the changed lifestyle options. There’s no doubt that the person undergoing the traumatic amputation may develop depression due to several factors such as feelings of loss and difficulty in coping up with the impairment.

The Impact of Psychological Distress For Amputees

Amputation represents an irreversible surgical option which may result in physically challenged and bodily disfigurement which ultimately leads to increased depression and body image disturbance along with social embarrassment.

A study published in the Industrial Psychology Journal found that 32% to 84% of amputees suffer from depression, anxiety, and/or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Anxiety and depression are the most common, affecting up to 63% of amputees. PTSD is more likely to occur in victims who have been injured in combat, or from a blast at work, but still impacts anyone who has suffered a sudden amputation. Many victims of car accidents and motorcycle accidents also suffer from PTSD and have difficulty re-adjusting to driving or being in a vehicle. 

Individuals who have had traumatic limb amputation often face difficulty when taking care of themselves and find themselves in a new position where they are unable to care for their families as well. This can lead to low self-worth, in addition to frustration and general difficulty in coping with the new situation or lifestyle changes.

Some studies have also shown that the rate of psychological distress and mental illness is directly correlated with the body part that is amputated. If the amputation is done on a body party that is more valuable to the individual, they are more likely to suffer higher rates of psychological distress as well as phantom limb pain. 

Amputations and Phantom Limb Phenomena 

It is common for individuals with amputations to suffer from phantom limb pain. This occurs when the individual feels pain in the limb that has been amputated, despite the fact that it is no longer there. While the most common areas to feel phantom limb pain are the legs and arms, this phenomenon could happen anywhere where a body part has been removed.

The pain caused by a phantom limb can range from a mild, sporadic tingle to a severe and unbearable burning pain or shock. In some cases, phantom pain can actually become so painful that it mimics the pain of the injury that led to the amputation.

Phantom limb pain is often associated with psychological distress. It occurs as a direct result of the individual being overwhelmed with emotions, feelings of helplessness, and other types of mental strain. The body’s pain receptors are directly connected to cognitive activity in the brain, and the lost signals from no longer having that limb can cause conflict or re-wiring that is escalated when  emotional distress occurs.

Therefore, individuals who are already undergoing significant psychological stress due to their amputation are also often subjected to phantom limb pain. As a result, the individual experiences prolonged pain and suffering in addition to adjustment to their newfound position. 

A Hamilton Personal Injury Lawyer for Amputations Can Help You 

In view of the high levels of anxiety and depression among amputees, it is suggested that psychological evaluation and intervention should form a part of the overall management of amputees. Remember, if your catastrophic amputation injury was caused by someone’s negligence,  you have the right to pursue the at-fault party, as well as your own insurance company for compensation to help fund  your rehabilitation for the rest of your life. It is important to understand your rights and the options available to you if you have suffered from a limb amputation as the result of an accident. You should not have to suffer the rest of your life in financial debt and psychological burden because someone else was negligent. 

Our Hamilton amputation lawyers have significant resources and tools available that can assist you as you adjust to this difficult and unexpected situation. We work with top specialists in Ontario who can assist you in developing a management and rehabilitation plan, as well as individuals who are highly trained in helping individuals in your situation.

We offer free consultations with no up-front fees, and can travel to you if you are incapable of traveling to our offices. Call our Hamilton Lawyers today at 905-333-8888 or submit a contact form through our website, and we will respond to your inquiry within one business day.




or fill out the form below

    • img
    • img
    • img
    • img

    Clients Testimonials

    more testimonials

    Experience Matters


    Pedestrian Accident

    view all case results