The loss of body parts can have distinct but overlapping psychological consequences. These can be bodily changes—alterations in the way patients, their families, and others perceive their bodies—or changes of function—alterations in the activities and roles that they are able to carry out. Some types of surgery affect one more than the other. Thus a unilateral mastectomy may have little influence on a woman’s functional ability, but the effect on her body image will usually be profound. Most types of surgery, however, affect both form and function. Losing a limb is a clear example of this.
- The loss of body parts can give rise to grief for loss of body image or function, or both
- Anxiety, depression, and sexual problems are related to the magnitude and type of loss as well as the personal vulnerability of the patient
- Both avoidance of and obsessive preoccupation with the loss can be problematic
- Members of the caring professions can help to prepare people for the losses that are to come; reassure them of the normality of fear, grief, and their physiological consequences; introduce them to support groups; recognise and monitor any problems that may arise; and ensure that specialist help is given when needed