Most people have at least one scar on their body and luckily, for the majority of us, it does not cause any real upset. However, through my work at the Wound Healing Research Unit, I am in contact with people who find that living with a scar is more of a problem to them. It's not just the person who has the scar(s) but also the family and friends who are affected.
One thing that has become very clear to me is that there are a wide range of things which influence how we feel about scars, including the location of the scar, our age and sex and how the scar occurred. Facial scars can be very distressing but other less visible scars can also be very upsetting.
Society places a great deal of importance on how we look. While scars are considered desirable in some societies and may even be inflicted deliberately, in the majority of cultures this is not the case. Often the "bad" character in a film is portrayed as having facial scarring which highlights the fact that our society not only views scars as undesirable but also perpetuates the myth that those with scars are likely to be less than pleasant people.
If we feel that people are reacting differently to us because we have a scar, it can cause embarrassment and a lack of self-confidence; some people eventually feel angry and isolated as a result of such experiences.
If you or someone you know is having problems coming to terms with a scar then do not despair. There are people who can help and ways you can help yourself.
- Look into the scar therapies which are available but don't raise your expectations too high - no therapy will erase a scar completely.
- It may take years to come to terms with a scar but it will help you accept your situation if you try to think positively - after all nobody is perfect and your scar is part of who you are.
- Talk to other people who have a scar, your doctor or arrange some counselling sessions. This may help you to come to terms with your scarring and does not mean that you will be referred to a psychiatrist. Remember that it can be quite normal to feel distressed about a scar and there are a number of organisations which may be able to help (see useful addresses)
Dr Patricia Price is a psychologist based at the wound healing research unit, UK.