Intensive Care Units Can Be Traumatic

Image courtesy of emilio labrador

It probably won’t come as much of a surprise to you that being in an Intensive Care Unit can be a traumatic experience, but an article from the BBC, Intensive care ‘has lasting impact on mental health’, reports on research about just how negative an experience it can be.

If you are in intensive care then it is because your medical condition is serious and you are going to extreme treatments to help save your life.

Not surprisingly, patients waking up in an Intensive Care Unit can find themselves both disoriented and terrified about what is going on.

The effects of this experience and the types of medical treatment that have to be used can have a profound effect on the patient’s emotional well-being

Researchers at University College Hospitals in London studied 157 patients who spent time in an intensive care unit and found that 55% had psychological problems after the experience. Three months after their stay 27% of them had PTSD, 46% depression and 44% anxiety.

The severity of the problems seems to be related to the emotional severity of the trauma and the level and type of medications used during their treatment.

They are now looking at introducing psychological therapy to such patients while they are in intensive care.

It seems to me that many forms of medical treatment can be difficult, even potentially traumatising, for the patient. It would make sense to me to have some form of quick trauma resolution process (Emotional Freedom Techniques, Eye Movement Integration, etc) available after surgery, intensive care stays, or other scary medical situations to reduce the psychological impact.

In the case of the Intensive Care study the impact of the “trauma” was intensified by the particular medications for those patients, but in most cases I imagine there would be a strong psychological component at work.

It seems to me that that part of this problem could be eased by prompt trauma clearing in the hospital which would have two immediate benefits: less suffering for the patient in the short and long-term, and less time and money spent treating the long-term effects.

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