Coping With the Loss of a Limb

Image for loss of limb article Some people are born with a limb difference, for others it is the result of injury, or disease such as diabetes or peripheral artery disease (PAD). Regardless of the cause, losing all or part of a limb is a life-changing event that can cause grief and decreased self-esteem.

Grieving

When you lose a limb, you lose part of your physical self. Grieving, therefore, is both normal and expected. Everyone handles loss differently, but as a general rule, there are 5 stages that people go through.
  • Denial and isolation
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance and hope
How long it takes a person to pass through these stages varies. Many pass through each phase quickly; others get stuck in one phase or go through one phase without going through the others. Also, stages can occur in different orders. According to a study in the journal Behavioral Medicine, a person’s age, the site of limb loss, and the cause of amputation all affect how an individual copes with losing a limb. For example, people who lose their limb unexpectedly may be more likely to react with denial (characterized by the refusal to accept the situation and its impact on well-being) than an individual whose amputation was the result of a long-term disease. Furthermore, people in denial are less likely to seek the help they need to move towards the final stage of acceptance and hope.

Body Image

The loss of a limb can have a serious negative impact on a person’s body image, which is exacerbated by the perfect people we see in everyday media. Children, for example, may feel “differently” from their peers. Adults may find that their negative self-image affects their social and sexual relationships. Research has shown that when faced with a disfiguring medical condition, people who feel self-conscious about their disfigurement respond by avoiding social situations. Unfortunately, this can trigger depression. If you are feeling self-conscious about your limb loss, try to remember that your physical appearance does not matter to those who care about you.

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