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Brain Injuries

Coping with Brain Injuries

Head injury survivors may experience a range of neuro­psychological problems following a traumatic brain injury. Depending on the part of the brain affected and the severity of the injury, the result on any one individual can vary greatly. Personality changes, memory and judgement deficits, lack of impulse control, and poor concentration are all common. Behavioral changes can be stressful for families and caregivers, who must learn to adapt their communication techniques, and established relationships.

Even a person who makes a “good” recovery may go through some personality changes. Family members must be careful to avoid always comparing the impaired person with the way he/she “used to be.” Personality changes are often an exaggeration of the person's pre-injury personality, in which personality traits become intensified. Some changes can be quite striking. It may be, for example, that the head injury survivor used to be easygoing, energetic, and thoughtful and now seems easily angered, self-absorbed, and unable to show enthusiasm for anything. Nonetheless, try not to criticize or make fun of the impaired person’s deficits. This is sure to make the person feel frustrated, angry, or embarrassed.

After a head injury, a person may lack emotional responses such as smiling, laughing, crying, anger, or enthusiasm, or their responses may be inappropriate. Recognize that this is part of the injury. Try not to take it personally. Encourage the person to recognize your smile at a humorous situation (or tears if you are sad), and to take note of the proper response. There are several traits commonly associated with brain injuries that caregivers should be aware of: Emotional Lability; Self-Centered Attitude; Poor Concentration; Lack of Awareness of Deficits; Inappropriate Sexual Behavior.

Coping with behavior problems after a head injury requires identification and acknowledgment of the impaired individual’s deficits. A comprehensive neuropsychological assessment is recommended. This may help both the survivor and the family to better understand neurological and cognitive deficits.

In some cases, it may be easier for the family caregiver to recognize personality changes than to resolve the problem behavior. Targeted strategies may be used to deal with specific behavioral issues.

Finally, it is critical that family members seek and receive support (family, friends, support group, counselor) in dealing with their own emotional responses to caring for a head injured loved one. Information and resources about brain injuries can be found at .