How To Focus On Your Mental Health From a Spinal Cord Injury

Posted on May 2, 2024

A spinal cord injury is life-altering, changing nearly every aspect of the victim’s physical and emotional well-being. After the initial trauma of the accident, spinal cord injury victims face months of rehabilitation to learn a new way to live within the limits of their level of immobility.

With changes to everyday life from the ability to work in a previous position, to accomplishing daily routines and interacting with loved ones, a spinal cord injury profoundly impacts the victim’s life and causes consequences to their emotional well-being and mental health.

Understanding Changes in Mental Health After a Spinal Cord Injury

Admitting to a need for emotional help can be difficult for a spinal cord injury victim who is already coping with tremendous changes in their physical health status.

However, it’s important for those suffering the impacts of a spinal cord injury to understand that the injury causes chemical changes in the brain that impact emotions in even the strongest, most positive individuals.

Admitting to the need to address mental health is an important and expected step under such life-altering circumstances. Changes in mental health status after a spinal cord injury stem from any or all of the following:

  • Mobility impairment
  • Lack of independence
  • Medications
  • Chronic pain
  • Inactivity
  • Sleep problems
  • Isolation from former colleagues, social events, and previous activities with friends and family
  • Chronic fatigue

Even one of the above effects of a spinal cord injury could result in depression, anxiety, or PTSD, but many spinal cord injury victims experience all of the above common impacts of the injury.

How to Cope With Emotional Health Problems After a Spinal Cord Injury

Because impacts on mental health are expected after a spinal cord injury, it’s important to be proactive about addressing the common emotional changes that accompany a new disability.

High-quality mental health care should begin as soon as possible after the injury as a part of rehabilitation. Instead of waiting for the symptoms to become pressing enough to force an injury victim to ask for help, mental health counseling should be included in basic care following this type of catastrophic injury.

Common Treatment for Depression, PTSD, and Other Emotional Problems After a Spinal Cord Injury

A treatment plan for the victim of a spinal cord injury should include the following:

  • Psychotherapy with a licensed professional who can teach coping skills and address harmful thought processes such as believing that they will never experience joy in life again or that their life is over
  • Support group attendance to encourage interactions with others who’ve shared the same experiences and similar struggles
  • Physical and occupational therapy to maximize abilities and achieve the highest possible level of independence
  • Learning new ways to enjoy previous activities
  • Medication to treat symptoms of anxiety or depression
  • Finding new interests and hobbies within their ability

Most spinal cord injury patients are given options for mental health treatment by their medical providers and caregivers.

It’s important to give as much consideration to improving the mental health outcome after a spinal cord injury as to maximizing physical improvement. Emotional damages may be listed in a compensation claim so an individual with a spinal cord injury has the necessary resources to get the care they need.