Life After Limb Loss: Coping with Amputation
Limb amputation can be devastating, both physically and mentally. But for the new amputee, the physical recovery may seem more easily surmountable than the trauma and complex range of emotions resulting from limb loss. Here we’ll discuss the psychological consequences faced by amputees and the resources available to aid in the recovery.
Loss Beyond the Limb
As with losing anything meaningful in our lives, experiencing grief and depression are normal responses to losing a limb. An amputee’s loss extends well beyond their limb. Losing the ability to participate in life in the same way as before is difficult and this is often accompanied by:
- The loss of independence
- Limited or no mobility
- Altered self-worth and self-esteem
- Diminished sense of control and autonomy
These factors can affect every aspect of a person’s life. A network of support from people who understand and care about what the amputee is experiencing can significantly help with their recovery.
Maintaining Family and Friend Connections
It is common for some amputees to socially withdraw and self-isolate. It’s important for the amputee to understand that they are not alone and how their circumstances affect those around them. Family members and friends want to be there for the amputee and need to know how to help their loved one overcome their struggles. Sharing the journey with family and friends can help all involved emotionally recover, together.
Seeking Support from Peers
Seeing successfully adapted peers who have experienced the same or similar circumstances can alleviate the fear, anxiety and isolation felt by a new amputee. With nearly 2 million people in the United States facing limb loss, there is a nationwide network of peer support available. The Amputee Coalition Support Group Networkhas over 400 registered amputee support groups across the nation that provide a safe, supportive environment for amputees and their families to express their emotions and develop healthy coping skills—from those who understand their challenges the most.
- Take a look at the Support Group Meeting calendar for a schedule of upcoming meetings.
- Request a Peer Visit through the Certified Peer Visitor Program.
Mental Health Counseling
While support from family, friends and/or peers is important to adapting to life as an amputee, counseling from a mental health professional can be vital for those struggling with:
- Body image and self-esteem
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Acute Stress Disorder (ASD)
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
A mental health professional can help the amputee recognize their emotions, communicate their feelings and needs to others, and use adaptive coping mechanisms for managing their distress. And for those with ambulatory concerns, there are now many online therapy programs available to participate from anywhere.
Active Participation in Rehabilitation
The physical recovery for an amputee includes physical and occupational therapy, as well as prosthetic fitting and rehabilitation, all of which establish necessary adjustments and new norms in their daily lives. Actively participating in their recovery can help an amputee return to routine functions sooner and feel more in control of their life. Additionally, the sooner the amputee has a prosthesis fitted, the further forward an emotional and mental journey can begin for a new mindset and thriving purpose.
The Prosthetist Finder tool assists amputees in finding a certified specialist who can fit them for a prosthetic device. A prosthetist determines the exact measurements and design of the prosthesis for optimal fit, feel and function that suits each person’s lifestyle.
WillowWood Is Here to Help
If you are struggling to find the amputee resources you need or have questions about our prosthetic devices and accessories, contact us today.