The Psychological Wounds Of Dog Bites

Dog bites can be extremely traumatic. However, when people consider dog bites, they tend to focus on the immediate physical damage, rather than the more complex psychological damage. While it is understandable to focus on immediate physical threats first, the psychological impact of a dog bite can be just as serious, and much more extensive and long-lasting.

When someone is bit by a dog, many different things can happen psychologically, depending on the person. These include:

  • PTSD: Most people associate PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) with military service, it can actually come from any major trauma, including dog bites. People with PTSD tend to experience hypervigilance, nightmares/sleep problems, flashbacks, and negative changes in feelings and beliefs. People with previous traumas and pre-existing anxiety and depression are at heightened risk of developing PTSD after a trauma like a dog bite, but it can happen to anyone.
  • Cynophobia (Fear Of Dogs): Dog bite survivors may develop a fear of dogs, which can cause them to become anxious or extremely afraid around specific dogs or dogs in general. Even people who previously loved dogs can experience cynophobia after a dog bite. This can get in the way of a person’s everyday life, making it difficult for them to enjoy visits with dog-owning loved ones, or just to take a walk down the street in a dog-friendly neighborhood.
  • Agoraphobia: Some dog bite survivors may develop agoraphobia, or fear of leaving their home. The trauma of the dog bite may cause an irrational but overwhelming belief that if they leave their home, they will be attacked by a dog. This can cripple a person’s life, essentially trapping them in their home and not allowing them to fully participate with the outside world.
  • Effects Of A Disfiguring Injury: Sometimes, dog bites cause disfiguring injuries that change a person’s appearance in minor or major ways. This can have an enormous impact on self-esteem, as well as a person’s professional, romantic, and interpersonal life, which can lead to feelings of shame and embarrassment as well as depression, anxiety, and C-PTSD.
  • Child-Specific Mental/Emotional Injuries: Children and adults process trauma differently, including dog bite trauma. This is due to a number of factors. For one, a child’s brain is still developing, which means trauma can have an outsized impact on their development. Trauma in children may have more longstanding affects than trauma in adults. Studies have shown that those who experience severe trauma at a young age are more likely to suffer from memory issues later in life, as well as other trauma-based negative outcomes.

In addition, children have “undifferentiated thinking”, which means they cannot separate their feelings from their thoughts. This leads them to derive broader, outsized conclusions from traumatic events, which worsens the potential impact of trauma on their lives. Children also lack the ability to express themselves like adults. It is therefore harder for them to talk about dog bite attacks, especially if mentioning the event upsets the adults around them. This can cause them to internalize their trauma instead of expressing it, which can lead to that trauma manifesting in behavioral and developmental problems.


At five years or younger, a child is likely to react with developmental reversion (returning to behaviors such as bedwetting, which they had previously moved past), fear of being separated from their parents, crying, screaming/tantrums, trembling, clinging, whimpering, and becoming immobile.

At ages 6-11, children are more likely to show a change in personality and behavior, including withdrawal, depression, anxiety, inattention, emotional numbing, feelings of guilt, and disruption/acting out/aggression. They may also have regressive behaviors, as well as nightmares/sleep problems, sudden irrational fears, and complaints like stomach aches and other health problems with no evident physical basis.

At ages 12-17, children are more likely to respond to trauma like adults. In particular, they may be more likely to engage in substance abuse and risky behaviors, and may become withdrawn and isolated from their peers, but they may also experience any of the effects common in older adults and younger children.

As you can see, dog bites can be majorly traumatic, and can cause real psychological damage. These traumas must be addressed by a medical professional. Extensive treatment options exist for trauma, and there is definitely help available for dog bite survivors. However, that treatment takes time and is usually very expensive, and the trauma may cause other damages to a person’s wellbeing and ability to support themselves in the meantime.

If you, a child, or a loved one is dealing with the aftermath of a dog bite, you should not have to shoulder the burden of those costs and damages alone. And with the right help, you may not have to. Dog bite survivors in Glendora, California or the surrounding area should call trauma damages specialist Cloyd Havens, of Havens, Malczynski, and Grigolla, LLP. Attorney Havens has the skill, experience, and empathy to truly understand the extent of your damages, and fight for fair compensation on your behalf. Call (626) 385-6303 for a free consultation today.

Follow Us On