Body Image, Sexuality, and Coping with Limb Loss


The Amputee Coalition received a letter from President Obama recognizing April as Limb Loss Awareness Month. Below is a link to that letter.

Losing a limb is extremely disabling. There are approximately 1.9 million people in the United States with some form of limb loss.  Some amputations are the result of injury or disease; others are born with a limb difference.  Losing all or part of a limb is a life-changing event that can cause grief and decreased self-esteem.  An amputee loses part of his or her physical self when they lose a limb and the change in appearance is final.  Grieving, therefore, is both normal and expected.  Loss of body image can have devastating effects on a person’s identity.  Body image refers to our perceptions, thoughts, feelings and reactions to our looks.  The loss experienced by a person with an amputation is not only the physical loss of a body part but also the loss of their former appearance, function, athletic ability, and hobbies.  Changes in an amputee’s physical appearance may initially make it more difficult to engage in personal relationships and may have significant impact on their ability to view themselves sexually.  In addition, amputated limbs often cause feelings of revulsion in the patient, family member, and society.

Children may feel different from their peers; adults may find that their negative self-image affects their sexual relationships.  Research has shown that when faced with an amputation, people who feel self-conscious about their residual limb respond by avoiding social situations.  Unfortunately, this also can trigger depression.  Traumatic combat injuries have unique considerations in regards to the high lethality of modern weaponry, the persistent threat of being in a war zone, the lack of emotional resources/support, and delay in medical attention.   Combat injuries powerfully impact the service members, their children and families.  Difficulty in readjusting to life back home may alter family relationships and support, contributing to a vicious cycle of psychological and social challenges for both the person with limb loss and the family.  Below are video clips of individuals with limb loss demonstrating determination, grace, and courage.

The Amputee Coalition also has several public service announcements running—some on a jumbotron in Times Square, NY. Here are links if you are interested in viewing these great pieces.

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