Coping with stress following hand injury

Information to help you understand and have more control over your experience

It’s not just you

Following a hand injury, you will be seen by the medical and therapy team to manage the physical problem. However, the consequences are greater than just the physical. Your injury may mean you are unable to work or carry out your normal activities and it can be difficult to manage even the most basic of day to day tasks. This can be distressing but most people overcome this in the first month or so.  It is important to be aware that feelings of frustration or not feeling like yourself can be a normal response to injury.

Since 1986 (Mendelson et al, 1986) research has shown that people with hand injuries can also experience symptoms of post traumatic stress such as nightmares, flashbacks and difficulty concentrating. This is normal and can be expected in the first 3 months. One of the big myths we work with all the time is that the size and location of injury relate to the level of psychological distress. This is not only untrue, but also unhelpful to those who have smaller and less visible injuries. Sometimes these things can’t be resolved on their own and you may need some help to work through them.

If you have been experiencing the following symptoms for several weeks and there is no sign of improvement you may need help:

  • You have disturbed sleep or nightmares and may find it difficult to concentrate in the day.
  • You performance at work has suffered since the injury.
  • You feel emotionally numb.
  • You may feel you want to talk about what happened yet feel you don’t have anyone to tell.
  • You find you are easily startled or agitated.
  • You relationships seem to be suffering since the incident.
  • Someone you are close to tells you they are concerned.
  • You find it hard to look at your hand or scar and want to always cover it.

How can I help myself?

  • Do tell people what you need, talk with someone you trust.
  • Try to get a good night’s sleep.
  • Reduce outside demands on you so you can focus on recovery.


IAPT (improved access to psychological therapies) was set up by the NHS in 2008 to address the gap in our healthcare system for the psychological side of our wellbeing.  IAPT provide talking therapies such as counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). They will decide with you which approach will be the most helpful.

If by reading this leaflet you feel you may benefit from some help coming to terms with your injury and how it has affected you then please make an appointment with your GP. Some services allow you to refer yourself but for others you will need to speak with your GP. NHS Choices website has a search option for IAPT; it will tell you which service is closest to you based on your postcode and whether or not you can self-refer.

It also provides information on waiting times.

How can I help myself?

  • Don’t be ashamed of your feelings, they are a normal response to a stressful event.
  • Don’t keep quiet about how you are feeling.

How to get help


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