Emotional Challenges of Spinal Cord Injury

Recent Articles

Spinal Cord Injury

Strategies for Coping and Healing from Spinal Cord Injury

Sustaining a spinal cord injury can be a life-altering experience that brings with it a myriad of emotional challenges. In this article, we’ll explore the impact of SCI on mental health, as well as resources that can help you manage these emotional challenges. Whether you’re a person with a spinal cord injury or a caregiver, understanding the mental health impact can help you cope, heal and find a sense of hope and purpose in your journey. So, let’s dive in and discover how to navigate the emotional challenges of spinal cord injury together.

Coping and Healing from Spinal Cord Injury

Understanding the Emotional Impact of Spinal Cord Injury

A spinal cord injury is a traumatic event that can affect every aspect of a person’s life. It can cause physical limitations, loss of independence, and changes in relationships with family and friends. However, it is not just the physical changes that can be challenging; it’s also the emotional impact of the injury. Spinal cord injury can lead to depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). According to a systematic review and meta-analysis of 38 studies, the prevalence of depression among individuals with SCI was found to be around 29%, while the prevalence of anxiety was around 26%.

Furthermore, individuals with SCI are at a higher risk of developing substance use disorders and suicidal ideation than the general population. One of the most significant emotional challenges people with spinal cord injuries face is grief. Grief is a natural response to loss, and when someone sustains a spinal cord injury, they may experience a sense of loss for their pre-injury life. Therefore, it’s essential to acknowledge these feelings of grief and work through them in a healthy way. Moreover, SCI can cause physical pain, discomfort, and complications such as bladder and bowel dysfunction, pressure sores, and infections, leading to chronic stress and anxiety. These physical symptoms can further impact mental health by causing sleep disturbance, fatigue, and changes in appetite, leading to further depression and anxiety.

Understanding the Impact of Emotions on Spinal Cord Injury Recovery and Physical Health

The mental health of spinal cord injury survivors is closely linked to their physical health. Therefore, neglecting mental health care can lead to further complications and negatively impact their overall well-being. For example, depression can lead to a lack of motivation to engage in physical therapy and other forms of rehabilitation, which can delay recovery and worsen physical symptoms. Moreover, neglecting mental health care can exacerbate physical symptoms, leading to chronic pain and further complications such as pressure sores and infections.

Addressing mental health concerns early on can improve overall physical health outcomes and improve SCI survivors’ quality of life.

Options for Mental Health Care after Spinal Cord Injury

Several options are available for mental health care after spinal cord injury. Some of these include Psychotherapy: Which involves talking to a mental health professional to identify and address mental health concerns such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Medications: Antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, and other medications may be prescribed to help manage mental health symptoms. Support groups: SCI survivors can benefit from connecting with other individuals with similar experiences and challenges, providing a sense of community and support.

Evidence-Based Psychotherapy for Spinal Cord Injury

There are several evidence-based psychotherapy interventions for spinal cord injury (SCI) that have been shown to be effective in addressing mental health concerns such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Here are some of them:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT focuses on identifying and changing negative thought patterns and behaviors. It is effective in addressing depression and anxiety in SCI survivors by helping them develop coping strategies and problem-solving skills.
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT): ACT is a type of therapy that focuses on developing psychological flexibility and acceptance of challenging experiences. It has been shown to be effective in reducing symptoms of depression, anxiety, and PTSD in SCI survivors by helping them focus on values and goals that are important to them.
  • Prolonged Exposure (PE): PE is a type of therapy that involves reprocessing traumatic memories and gradual exposure to fear stimuli associated with the traumatic event. It has been shown to be effective in reducing symptoms of PTSD in SCI survivors.
  • Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR): MBSR is a therapy that focuses on developing mindfulness skills to manage stress and improve well-being. It has been shown to be effective in reducing symptoms of depression, anxiety, and PTSD in SCI survivors.
  • Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT): IPT is a type of therapy that focuses on addressing relationship problems and interpersonal issues. It has been shown to be effective in reducing symptoms of depression in SCI survivors by improving social support and interpersonal functioning.

Seeking professional help

Seeking professional help is essential for managing the emotional challenges of a spinal cord injury. A therapist or counselor can help you work through your emotions and develop coping strategies.

Here are some tips for seeking professional help:

  1. Talk to your doctor: Your doctor can recommend a therapist or counselor who works with
    spinal cord injury.
  2. Find a therapist: Look for a therapist specializing in spinal cord injury or disability.
  3. Consider online therapy: Online therapy can be a convenient option for people who have
    mobility limitations.
  4. Ask for referrals: Ask for referrals from friends, family, or support groups for people with
    spinal cord injuries.

If you are dealing with any impact of a Spinal Cord Injury or physical trauma located in the Tampa bay area, please our friends at Gulf Coast Injury Center, and if you are having mental health issues due to your trauma, click here if you want more information on our Mental Health Sevices.

About Dr. Saarah Nicolas

I’ve experienced trauma firsthand and, through therapy, overcame my fears and found healing. This led me to become a psychologist and offer others emotional freedom. Authenticity builds trust and connection, and I take pride in providing a supportive environment for my clients. If you are ready to begin your journey to healing, I invite you to reach out.
“There often comes a time when we realize that things are not working how we want them to. A time when making a shift in our journey outweighs the comfort of a path that no longer serves us.”

Dr. Saarah Nicolas

Owner and Licensed Psychologist at Mindful Roots Counseling

Through evidence-based approaches like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and mindfulness, I have helped numerous clients manage symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and trauma-related issues. I also have a long history working with Veterans, women, male sexual trauma survivors, LGBTQ+, and BIPOC people.
Tags :
Emotions, mental health
Share This :