What Psychological Changes Can You Expect After a Brain Injury?

Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are caused when the head receives a blow, bump, or jolt severe enough to cause disruption to normal brain function. About 1.7 million people suffer TBIs each year in the United States alone. Of these, about 52,000 results in fatalities. Although falls are the leading cause of TBIs, the second is car accidents. Road accidents account for about 17 percent of TBIs, and 31 percent of fatalities.

A wide range of short- and long-term psychological effects can happen as the result of a TBI. The emotional effects can be quite dramatic, changing the way the injured person expresses their emotions and reacts to daily stimuli. Here is a list of what you might need to expect after a brain injury and the way it affect emotion and psychology.

Short-Term Psychological Issues

For the first three months after a TBI, many patients experience mood swings. They may become angry or upset very suddenly. Some even have outbursts of laughter or crying that have nothing to do with what they’re experiencing at the moment. Others are irritable and shout, slam their fists, or throw things when they become upset over what others might consider trivial. These emotional issues are often related to damage to the part of the brain that regulates emotions. Difficulty concentrating is another very common psychological change after a TBI. 

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Anxiety is another issue frequently encountered after a TBI. Patients may feel anxiety without understanding why, or for no apparent reason. Some patients have panic attacks. Others have symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which includes replaying the traumatic event over and again in their minds and difficulty sleeping. 

Long-Term Psychological Issues

In the later stages of recovery, many patients experience depression. Symptoms of depression include feelings of sadness, feelings of worthlessness, changes in eating and sleeping habits, fatigue, withdrawal from family and friends, and loss of interest in activities that once brought the individual pleasure. 

Cognitive Issues with Mild TBI

Health care providers divide TBI into the categories of either mild or severe. For those diagnosed with mild TBI, psychological changes often include memory loss, decreased ability to focusand concentrate, sleep disturbances, irritability, mood swings, and depression. 

Cognitive Issues with Severe TBI

Those diagnosed with severe TBI may display any or all of the above symptoms. Patients may also experience cognitive problems with confusion, the speed at which they process information, language processing, impulsiveness, and the brain’s higher executive functions. They may experience failure to understand spoken language and/or failure to process words for proper speech. Problems with reading and writing are common.

Emotionally, people with severe TBI might experience dependent behavior toward caregivers and family members, a lack of motivation, a lack of inhibition, denial or lack of awareness about their condition, or sometimes aggression. 

Those who’ve had a TBI should know help is available. A doctor or other primary health care provider can recommend treatment options for emotional changes related to TBI.If you or someone you love has suffered a brain injury as a result of a car accident, you should know your legal rights. Consult a car accident attorney to find out what compensation you may be entitled to under the law, especially after an accident. A peer group of other TBI survivors can be a supportive environment in which to vent complaints and learn techniques for living with TBI and the resulting psychological effects as well. 


Eileen O'Shanassy is a freelance writer and blogger based out of Flagstaff, AZ. She writes on a variety of topics and loves to research and write. She enjoys baking, biking, and kayaking. Check out her Twitter @eileenoshanassy. For more information getting legal and medical compensation check here. 

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