Dog bites, while uncommon, can lead to many complications for the victim later in life. Most people think about the physical damage left behind, but, barring extreme cases, most of that clears up over time. What we want to focus on today is the psychological side of things. Understanding the emotional effects of dog bites and how they affect people is vital to figuring out what steps are necessary for recovery.
One of the most common psychological effects of receiving a dog bit is post-traumatic stress. The victim can suffer from distressing memories or nightmares if they see or interact with a dog. It doesn’t even have to be the dog that bit them for this to occur. If you don’t acknowledge and treat this trauma, it can lead to PTSD or other more permanent issues.
Therapy is a good option for combating this. For most adults, this will be enough, but for children and adults who have trouble opening up about events like this, the road to recovery can be long and arduous. Children, in particular, can develop more significant problems, such as difficulties in fully developing the hippocampus area of the brain, the section associated with memory. If you know a child who has suffered from a dog bite or attack, make sure they receive the help they need.
Some phobias can also develop due to dog bites and the associated PTSD. The obvious one is cynophobia, which is the fear of dogs. This type of fear is common post-attack. When close to dogs, this person will most likely start shaking, go into a panic attack, and may even become nauseous, which can lead to many issues if there is a dog at home. You might need to remove the dog if the phobia persists.
The other prevalent phobia that can develop is agoraphobia—the fear of going outside of one’s house. While this is less common, it is likely to form if the dog attack occurred outdoors. Therapy can help with both phobias, but there is no guarantee that the person will ever recover from them entirely.
Body Image Issues
Even though we are trying to understand the emotional effects of dog bites, there are some physical ramifications we need to consider, specifically with long-term injuries. Some dog attacks are so violent that they can leave a person with permanent scarring. Plastic surgery is an option, but it can be quite costly and still leave the person feeling like a shadow of their former self. The emotional effects this can have on a person don’t stop there, however. Regardless of their recovery, they might need therapy to facilitate the emotional healing process. The best-case scenario is that they get used to their new physical appearance and accept it. But that can be a very long, very difficult journey, and there’s no guarantee that they’ll ever fully recover their previous self-image.