At first glance, it might seem like a dog attack is a minor event in light of other bad things that can happen to us. But in reality, the victim of an attack can experience ongoing repercussions that sometimes last for years, especially if he/she was seriously injured or traumatized. Most of us associate Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) with soldiers returning from the battlefield, but the truth is we are capable of developing this condition in the aftermath of any traumatic event — including dog attacks, in some cases.
Not every dog attack victim will develop PTSD, of course, but certain factors can make trauma more likely. Younger children, for example, who have no prior context for a severe attack, may be particularly susceptible. Additionally, if the attack was severe or prolonged, or if the injuries significant and/or irreversible in some way, these factors, too, can contribute to development of PTSD in people of any age.
PTSD is a diagnosable condition which usually doesn’t go away without some form of treatment (typically medications and/or psychotherapy). Thus, if a dog bite victim experiences symptoms of PTSD, he/she may be eligible for additional compensation beyond the immediate medical bills — not only for the cost of treating the condition, but also for lost work and pain and suffering.
Below is a list of possible symptoms of PTSD following a dog attack. These symptoms are generally classified in four categories — re-experiencing symptoms, avoidance symptoms, cognition/mood symptoms and hyperarousal symptoms — and an official diagnosis of PTSD usually requires at least one symptom to be present from each of the four categories.
These symptoms involve the victim reliving the trauma over and over as the brain tries to process it. These include:
1. Nightmares (one of the more common symptoms)
2. Flashbacks — the victim relives the event as if it is happening again
3. Trigger events — a sight or sound may cause a significant emotional reaction (in the case of a dog attack victim, the sight of a dog or the sound of barking could turn into a trigger)
These symptoms are a way for the victim to try and create a wide berth of “safe space” to prevent a recurrence of an attack. These might include:
4. Staying away from, or trying to get away from, places or objects that remind them of the attack (for example, avoiding dogs, avoiding the site of the attack)
5. Refusing to talk or think about the attack
These symptoms have to do with the victim’s overall demeanor and behavior in the aftermath of an attack. These symptoms may include:
6. Selective memory repression — failing to recall certain key elements of the attack
7. Irrational sense of guilt or blame
8. Negative thoughts and/or depression — negativity turned toward the world or oneself
9. Isolation and disengagement — the person may no longer find enjoyment in his/her favorite activities, or may avoid relationships
Hyperarousal in the context of PTSD refers to an overall heightened sense of anxiety, or an over-awareness of possible lurking danger—almost as if the natural fight-or-flight instinct can’t resolve itself. These symptoms may include:
10. Difficulty sleeping
11. Easily startled, and reacting badly when it happens
12. A constant feeling of being “on edge” — as though something bad could happen at any moment.
Additional possible symptoms in young children
Children may exhibit some slightly different symptoms of PTSD, either in place of or in addition to some of the symptoms listed above. The younger the child (usually under age 6) and the more severe the attack, the more likely the child is to develop one or more of the following:
14. Being “clingy” with parents beyond their normal behavior
15. Reversion to early childhood behaviors (for example, forgetting how to talk)
16. Acting out the attack consistently during play time
If you or someone you love is experiencing symptoms of PTSD following a dog attack, it’s important to document the symptoms, get an official diagnosis, and most of all get treatment. It’s also essential to discuss this development with an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you receive proper compensation for your treatment, pain and suffering. To learn more, call Sutton Slover Law today at 404.768.0292.