The Emotional Impact of Trauma Related Scarring



Can serious scarring affect a victim’s emotional heath after an accident?

With rare exceptions, all physical wounds leave scars.  In our practice, we often see victims of serious injury end up with permanent scarring, whether from a car accident or motorcycle accident, of from the reconstruction or orthopedic intervention after the hospital admission. Scars can become a constant reminder of the trauma, injury and stress.Accident related scarring can no doubt adversely affect a victim’s emotional well-being in a variety of ways after a serious accident.

A victim who has experienced significant visible scarring after an accident can suffer emotionally, become introverted and suffer self-conscious issues, become unsociable, isolated, suffer problems with their communication skills, with their personal relationships, work life and interferance with their leisure activities. Significant scarring injuries can cause frustration and ongoing distress with having to be forced to re-live the accident.

Many accident victims will tell you that their repeated explanations about their scars are found to be exasperating, awkward and often forces them to recall bad memories. Many victims are permanently distraught about the visibility of scarring – whether it the ongoing stress of hiding scars in job interviews, swimming, playing at the beach, wearing a dress or or simply when looking in the mirror, day after day.

The Emotional Impact of Scarring

There are many, many psycho-social effects that can result from accident-related scarring:

  • Insecurity – if your scar is visible you may be concerned that others are staring at your scar
  • Fear – a variety of fear is associated with scarring. The biggest is whether the scar will ever go away
  • Anger – it is common for the scar to be an emotional trigger, often inciting anger
  • Self-conscious – some with scarring feel a lack of self-worth
  • Sadness – the emotional impact of scarring can cause people to be sad or depressed due to the change it brings to their day-to-day life
  • Depression due to physical discomfort and functioning
  • Acceptability to self and others; social functioning
  • Distress at the lack of recovery
  • Lowered emotional well-being
  • Anxiety with their appearance due to their perceived stigma
  • Stress  – with having to constantly cope with hiding or compensating for the scars.

How Does Scarring Occur?

Scar formation is always a consequence of the wound healing process that occurs when skin is damaged by a physical injury or surgery.  Scarring often occurs by the trauma or the accident itself, or when the accident victim is required to undergo plastic, reconstructive or orthopedic surgery. Tissue repair under traumatic situations is not imperfect. The location, depth and size of the surgical wound, as well as the age, sex, and ethnicity of the victim make a difference.

What are the main different kinds of trauma related scars?

  • Keloid Scars – which are raised scars that are normally bigger than the wound itself.  Keloids are more common in people of African, Hispanic and Asian descent
  • Contracture Scarring – which are scars that tighten the skin, resulting in an impairment to move properly. Contracture scars may affect muscles and nerves in your body
  • Hypertrophic Scars – these are the most common scars that we often see  – they are visible and elevated scars which are thick and raised, and often red in color

Scarring and Disfigurement after a Motorcycle Accident

Scarring and disfigurement in motorcycle accidents are extremely common – mainly from amputations, burns, lacerations, road rash as well as plastic & orthopedic surgery.  Plastic surgery is often necessary for riders that suffer injuries requiring reconstructive surgery. Many riders that are hurt in motorcycle accidents also suffer facial injuries involving lacerations or fractures to the nose, orbital bones, cheeks and jaw. Surgery related scarring to the face can no doubt leave a person with devastating emotional problems.

Scarring and Disfigurement after a Dog Attack or Dog Bite

Scarring and disfigurement after a dog attack is often compounded by intrusive thoughts of the actual dog attack.   The emotional pain that a dog bite victim suffers has been compared to an invisible world of permanent hurt. More often than not, dog attacks end up causing victims brutal and persistent anxiety, which in turn cause emotional distress, phobias, obsessional avoidance behaviors, and an intense fear of dogs. Psychological intervention, for some, is a life-long requirement after a dog attack.

Scarring & Personal Injury Lawsuits

Severe scarring can affect the victim’s social life and lead to depression and a loss of confidence.  If your scarring is causing you emotional and psychological distress, impacting your ability to go about your daily living, or causing you to relive your accident you may be able to receive compensation. There may also be some associated costs and recovery associated with a scarring injury which are not covered by OHIP or your group insurance policy, such as cosmetic procedures or medication. Some of the costs can be reoccurring or last a lifetime – such as recent advances in treatment which are improving the outlook for patients with traumatic scarring.

If you were involved in a personal injury accident, a dog bite or motor vehicle accident and have visible scarring that is affecting your ability to engage in your regular activities, it’s important to have an experienced lawyer on your side. Our Hamilton personal injury lawyers can help guide you to the right medical and psychological care while working hard to get you the compensation you deserve.  Give us a call today at 905-333-8888 or fill out the contact form below.