A traumatic brain injury, or TBI, can happen when there is a severe hit to the head, such as a fall, or car accident. Traumatic brain injuries vary in severity, with some people recovering within days or weeks, and more severe forms causing permanent brain injury and disability.
That said, it’s not just the physical aspect of a brain injury that can affect someone’s life. Understandably, many TBI patients struggle with mental health issues after their diagnosis and avoid seeking medical help. Others put their time and energy into making brain injury claims to compensate them financially.
Though everyone has different ways of coping, it’s important to recognise the signs of needing help. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the ways a brain injury can impact mental health – from depression and anxiety, through to cognitive behavioural problems.
How Can TBI Patients Detect Poor Mental Health?
Diagnosing poor mental health after a brain injury can be difficult. Usually, when it’s physical, doctors can easily detect the injury through X-rays and MRI scans. With mental health, however, sometimes the signs are hidden, and it can take a while for a patient, or family and friends, to notice.
Changes in emotion, physiological states, behaviour, and cognition are all very common signs following brain injury, and do not necessarily indicate a mental health condition. It’s vital you are receiving the correct support from services that are appropriate for you.
Though mental health can worsen after a traumatic brain injury, you should always be primarily referred to a brain injury specialist over a mental health specialist – unless you had a pre-existing mental health condition.
5 Cognitive and Behavioural Symptoms of a Brain Injury
1. Mood Swings
Symptoms of a brain injury often involve changes in moods and behaviours, such as feeling suddenly sad and anxious. A TBI patient may become more agitated or frustrated than before, or experience random waves of anger. Any unusual mood changes can indicate a hidden brain injury, with serious cases in patients causing severe depression alongside a lack of empathy for others.
As mentioned previously, it’s important to seek out a brain injury specialist before talking to a mental health doctor. You’ll often be referred to neurophysiologists and neuropsychiatrists who are medically trained to deal with symptoms of TBI.
A key sign that someone is experiencing symptoms of a brain injury is if you notice changes in communication, such as difficulty understanding speech or writing, difficulty expressing how they’re feeling, and an inability to organise your thoughts. Signs can be particularly difficult to notice in children if their communication hasn’t fully developed yet.
In adults, differences in social skills may be slightly easier to detect, with problems including changes in tone and pitch, trouble reading cues from listeners, and the inability to use muscles to form words. These problems can cause frustration, conflict and misunderstanding for people with a traumatic brain injury, as well as family members, friends, and care providers.
3. Intellectual Problems
What’s more, a traumatic brain injury can also alter a patient’s cognitive ability, stunting their intellectual capacity. Issues involving one’s memory, learning, reasoning, attention, and judgement may arise. As a result, the ability to undertake functions, such as problem-solving, multi-tasking, organising, and making decisions, becomes increasingly difficult.
All the above problems can harm a patient’s mental health and can leave them feeling frustrated and angry that they can no longer complete basic tasks like they used to.
A loss of consciousness is also closely associated with those who have experienced a brain injury. Varying from mild to severe – symptoms can be as slight as being dazed, confused, or disoriented, to as severe as a coma and other disorders of consciousness.
Patients that experience a loss of consciousness are likely to feel scared and not want to be alone for large periods of time. Because of how serious the condition can get, it’s advised to see a brain specialist as soon as possible, if you recognise problems developing.
5. Change in Sleep Habits
Though a change in sleeping habits is a physical symptom, it can also have a profound effect on a patient’s mental health. Interestingly, a traumatic brain injury can either cause a severe lack of sleep or cause someone to sleep far more than normal. In some cases, it can also cause them to struggle to wake up.
This constant irregularity of sleep can cause those struggling to feel over-tired and confused, and leave them craving a sense of routine. According to the mental health charity, Mind, sleep and mental health are intrinsically linked. A variety of feelings, such as anxiety, paranoia, loneliness, and depression, can all arise from an unusual sleep pattern.
It’s Never Too Late to Seek Mental Health Advice After a Brain Injury
In this article, we’ve discussed five cognitive, emotional, and behavioural ways that your brain can be affected after a traumatic brain injury. Though signs and symptoms aren’t always obvious, it’s important to keep a close eye on yourself, friends, and family, and to consistently monitor changes in behaviour.
If you, your family, or friends suspect a mental health condition as a result of TBI, contact your local doctor’s surgery. They’ll be able to provide you with the necessary referrals if further assessments or services are required. They may also prescribe medication to help with issues such as depression, or suggest talking to a therapist.
Please be advised that this article is for general informational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for advice from a trained medical professional. Be sure to consult a medical professional or healthcare provider if you’re seeking medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment. We are not liable for risks or issues associated with using or acting upon the information on this site.
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