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What to Expect After a Traumatic Brain Injury

Knowing what to expect after a traumatic brain injury helps caregivers know how to better help a loved one.
Knowing what to expect after a traumatic brain injury helps caregivers know how to better help a loved one.
A woman wishes she had known what to expect after a traumatic brain injury, as she wraps her arm around a distressed looking older man.

There are a variety of different kinds of brain injuries, but some behavioral challenges are common regardless of the type of brain injury that occurs. Certain problematic behaviors may be more or less likely according to the area and extent of the trauma, but your loved one may demonstrate one or more of these behaviors during TBI recovery, regardless of the specifics of the injury.

The first step in managing inappropriate behavior in a loved one is to know what to expect after a traumatic brain injury. Distinguishing the behavior as a symptom of the injury can help you determine the best course of action to keep yourself, your loved one, and the people in your life both physically and emotionally safe.

What Are Some of the Most Common Behavioral Changes After a TBI?

Inappropriate Emotional Responses – The person may not demonstrate emotional responses to stimuli that prompted those very responses prior to the brain injury. They may not laugh when something is funny, smile when seeing something pleasant, or cry when something is sad. The response may also be contextually unsuitable, not matching the current state. For example, they may laugh when sad or cry for no specific reason.

Memory Problems – Problems with memory are often the first thing the general public thinks of when someone experiences a brain injury. Short-term memory problems or amnesia can occur, but, surprisingly, the retention of new information is the most common memory-related issue people will likely experience as a result of brain trauma.

Sexual Inappropriateness – Someone with a traumatic brain injury may have an enhanced interest in sex, a decreased interest in sex, or a lack of understanding about the contextual appropriateness of a sexual expression or behavior.

AggressionAggressive behavior after a brain injury is quite common. Understanding what triggers an aggressive response for your loved one can help in avoiding the behavior.

Denial – It is not unusual for people with traumatic brain injuries to adamantly insist that they are not symptomatic. At times this is due to the actual brain injury, but it also can be basic denial unconsciously executed as a coping mechanism to delay the confrontation of fear and/or uncertainty about how to manage the realities of life after trauma.

Personality Changes – Everyone goes through personality changes as they progress through life, but adults with a brain injury can experience extreme, sudden personality changes that can be disorienting to the people who know and love them.

Empathy Issues – After a TBI, your loved one might suddenly come across as very self-centered. For instance, they might demand rather than ask nicely, or say things that hurt your feelings or are irrational without seeming to care. The lack of empathy is not a lack of love. It is an injury-related problem caused by issues with abstract thinking skills.

Emotional Volatility – Emotional volatility, also called emotional lability, is a rapid, frequently exaggerated mood swing that is frequently extreme and might come across as an overreaction.

Poor Concentration – After a TBI, a person may become easily distracted, have problems with multitasking, lose track in a discussion or experience information overload.

If you know what to expect after a traumatic brain injury, you can be ready for any changes that may surface and see them for what they are – a symptom of the injury. They are not a representation of the person’s opinion or emotional investment in you.

If you have a loved one with a brain injury and need help with any of these difficult behaviors, either at home or in a care facility, CareFor can help. Contact us to schedule your free care consultation at (512) 338-4533 or to learn more about our home care services in Austin, New Braunfels, San Antonio, or the surrounding areas.

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