PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, is a psychological and emotional condition that can occur after a person is involved in any traumatic event. Often, soldiers will come home from war with PTSD, or someone who has been involved in a car accident or other traumatic event will experience symptoms of PTSD. Can a person get PTSD after a dog bite? Absolutely – here’s what you need to know.
John Maher: Hi, I’m John Mayer. I’m here today with Robert Mazow, and Kevin McCullough of the law firm of Mazow | McCullough, a personal injury law firm with offices in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Robert and Kevin have a great deal of experience as dog bite attorneys.
Today we’re going to be talking about what you need to know about post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD after a dog bite. Robert and Kevin, welcome.
Kevin McCullough: Thank you, John.
Robert Mazow: Thank you, John.
John: What kind of emotional impact can a dog bite have on the victim, or his or her family?
Kevin: A dog bite or a dog attack can have an extremely strong impact on the dog bite victim and the family. What we see in situations, especially those involving children, is the child being conscious and aware of the incident, having continuous nightmares of the incident, being extremely afraid to see a dog, be around a dog, or see a dog on TV.
It could have a huge impact on that particular victim.
What we also see is if a parent or a family member was nearby, the traumatic effect that it could have on them. A guilt that maybe they shouldn’t have let the child get close to the dog or near the dog, or they should have done something differently.
The dynamic of post traumatic stress disorder and how it could impact the actual dog victim and the family is very real.
It’s very strong, and it’s extremely important to recognize that and get the appropriate medical treatment and counseling that’s needed to deal with that, so it doesn’t linger and go on forever.
John: Right. Would that be considered PTSD, and is it common to see PTSD in dog bite cases?
Robert: We see it all the time, unfortunately, both in young children and actually people of any age. They have nightmares. They relive the event. The shame of it is that dogs are a big and important part of our lives. So many people have dogs. Children’s friends have dogs. They’re just everywhere.
To saddle somebody with a perpetual and permanent fear of dogs as a result of a traumatic event that happened is a shame, because you’re never going to be able to get away from it.
John: Is that something that through counseling somebody can get over, especially with a child? Could they learn how to like dogs again and be able to be around dogs?
Robert: Of course, we see that people can adjust to it. Sometimes kids will grow out of the fear. With the right kinds of counseling, there’s certainly a way to get beyond it.
On the other hand, there are some people who just can’t, and they can’t be in the presence of a dog without having to relive the trauma of what happened to them.
John: What are some of the signs of PTSD after a dog bite?
Kevin: What we typically see in the cases that we handle, as far as signs of PTSD after a dog bite, can be the person being extremely emotional, whether they’re around a dog or not. They’re reliving the event and wondering what they could have done differently or should have done differently.
The nightmares that we’ve talked about that they can have. The fear of being in a closed environment.
Having an out, being able to get away from a dog if a dog comes nearby. The constant evaluation of “What’s going to happen to me? When will it happen next? How do I protect myself from it?”
Those are the typical signs and symptoms that we see, and it really goes to the heart of the victim being able to move forward. It really puts them in fear of living their daily life. Again, it’s not just when they see a dog.
It could be a reaction to a sound or something that happened during the particular dog attack or during the recovery period of the dog attack, anything that reminds them of that.
John: It wouldn’t be necessarily obvious to say a parent if their child is all of a sudden scared about something, but there’s no dog around, it might not be really obvious.
Robert: Right. We talk to the parents when they come in to see us about their child. We talk about how they’ve been sleeping, how their grades have changed in school, how their reactions with friends and family are. We encourage them if there is something that the parent sees or can’t quite put their finger on, to get professional help.
To not wait on this, to talk to their pediatrician, to talk to their physician, to discuss with a counselor what’s going on here because it could be something else, or it could be related to the dog, but they do need to get a handle on it.
John: That’s great advice, Robert, and Kevin. Thanks for speaking with me today.
Kevin: Thank you, John.
Robert: Thank you, John.