Improvised explosive devices and other explosions in war have been the cause of limb loss, severe burns, and other visible injuries. Research in the veteran and civilian populations indicates there is a link between body image, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
As a nurse researcher who has studied the mirror viewing experience after disfiguring injuries, I know that most health care providers do not know how traumatic the first mirror experiences may be for those who have suffered visible body disfigurement. Patients are nonchalantly pushed in wheelchairs into full-length mirrors in hospital lobbies, elevators, and physical therapy departments by health care providers who have no idea that the mirror-viewing experience may be difficult. It is in these public places that many veterans see their radically changed bodies in a mirror for the first time.
I believe two mechanisms are at play in mirror viewing: an experiential and a neurological component. For many individuals, there is an experience of comfort when performing daily bodily routines in a mirror. The mind registers a consistent self-recognition. However, when one experiences a visible physical disfigurement such as an amputation, there is a negative disruption or discharge of the neural network. This disruption leads to a negative mirror viewing experience. Without supportive measures, the trauma of viewing self in a mirror after severe bodily disfigurement may lead to mirror avoidance, depression, and potentially post-traumatic stress disorder.
A research team is working with me to design a supportive mirror intervention for individuals who suffer visible disfigurement. We hope this intervention may lead to increased dignity, mirror comfort, body image, and self-esteem and less anxiety and depression.
As mirror research is new, we needed to design a questionnaire: The Mirror Comfort & Acceptance Scale. This tool will be used for mirror research for those veterans who have suffered physical or emotional trauma. The tool is in the stage where all questions need to be statistically analyzed for validity.
125 veterans are needed to ensure questions in the scale are valid. Veterans who have never suffered physical or emotional trauma, and those who have suffered are welcome to take part.
Please join me in my quest to enhance one experience for veterans who have suffered for their country.
The survey can be found at https://www.psychdata.com/s.asp?SID=187704
If the link does not work go to: Psychdata.com and type 187704 in the survey number field (top right).
Wyona M. Freysteinson, PhD, MN is Associate Professor, Nelda C. Stark College of Nursing at Texas Woman’s University in Houston, Texas. Dr. Freysteinson has extensively researched the mirror experience in terminally ill women, individuals who have had an amputation of a limb, and veterans. Her work has resulted in several publications and numerous regional, national, and international presentations. Contact information: firstname.lastname@example.org