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The Emotional Impacts of Brain Injuries on Individuals and Their Families

June 16, 2023Articles

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) has serious effects on more than just the victim’s physical health. Because the brain controls all body systems as well as mood and personality, the effects ripple throughout all aspects of the injury victim’s life and also affect their family. The financial costs of a moderate to severe traumatic brain injury are staggering, but a successful personal injury claim can include compensation not only for medical costs and lost wages but often for expenses related to individual and family counseling for the emotional trauma associated with a brain injury.

What is a Traumatic Brain Injury?

A traumatic brain injury occurs when a victim suffers a head injury such as a blunt force trauma or penetrating skull wound. It can also occur from a violent shake or jolt that causes the brain to bump against the inside of the skull bones or to twist and tear within the skull. As the delicate brain tissue sustains damage from bleeding, bruising, or inflammation, the cells in the affected area die, leaving them unable to receive or transmit signals. Depending on the location of the injury in the brain and the severity of the damage, the brain injury can have significant impacts on the victim’s cognitive function and physical ability including:

  • Problems with movement and mobility
  • Speech problems
  • Memory and concentration problems
  • Problems with reasoning and cognitive function
  • Mood problems and personality changes
  • Sleep problems

It often takes months or years of physical, speech, and occupational therapy for a brain injury victim to regain independence and some may require home health care or ongoing care inside a long-term care facility.

Understanding Mood and Personality Changes After a TBI

While challenges with speech and mobility can be difficult to overcome or to learn to live with, for many family members, it’s the change in their loved one’s personality that is the most distressing aspect of their injury. When they find that an injured loved one acts and responds differently than they did before their injury, they may feel like they are dealing with a different person and may grieve the loss of the person they knew.

There are several underlying causes for changes in mood and personality after a traumatic brain injury including:

  • Damage to the frontal lobe of the brain which controls mood, reasoning, impulse control, emotional regulation, and behavior
  • Anxiety or depression due to the struggles associated with recovering from their injury or dealing with new physical limitations and problems with memory, concentration, and reasoning
  • They may suffer from PTSD and emotional trauma from the accident experience and waking up to a changed physical and cognitive condition
  • After a TBI, an injury victim may have trouble coping with their loss of independence

Post-traumatic stress and anxiety are common after a brain injury but it can be difficult for family members to understand and adjust their expectations of their loved one.

How Can Loved Ones Help?

Family members can help by understanding that the personality changes they’re experiencing in their loved ones are due to changes in their brain function that are beyond their control and that they shouldn’t take their reactions personally. They can help both their injured family member and themselves by doing the following:

  • Stepping away and taking a break when needed instead of showing frustration or anger
  • Refusing to give in to irrational demands
  • Providing supportive feedback during the injury victim’s calm moments
  • Allow the injury victim independence as much as possible
  • Seek out every opportunity for professional counseling and emotional support
  • Join victim support groups and support groups for family members
  • Reach out to local chapters of the Brain Injury Association for resources in their area

Medications, counseling, and ongoing therapies targeting speech, emotional regulation, and mood can help TBI victims better regulate their behavior and impulses, but in many cases, they’ll have to adjust to a new normal and their family members have to adjust to new expectations. Contact a brain injury attorney in New Haven for a free consultation today.