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Traumatic Brain Injury

If You Don’t Look Injured, You Must Be Fine

Isolation following a head injury.

When it comes to people injured in car accidents who do not show obvious signs of their injuries, it is difficult for others around them to understand what you are experiencing. Friends and family cannot see what is broken inside your head, even on an MRI or CT scan.

Steve was three years into his recovery from a serious car accident when he explained his feelings in group psychotherapy for auto accident survivors. “I feel people are laughing at the subject and think we are just making up things. They don’t understand until they experience themselves. They never will understand how we feel after this traumatic brain injury. It is sad people don’t realize how serious it is. I think some insurance companies take advantage of this.”

Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) affect everyone differently. There is no one size fits all when it comes to the impact on ones behavior and feelings about self or degree of cognitive and behavioral compromise. Ann continued to have difficulty coping with disturbing nightmares with themes of injury and death which she has almost nightly. Sleep continues to be extremely disturbed. She continues to struggle to accept the new person she feels she has become post-head injury which has resulted in dramatic changes in how she thinks, feels and behaves. Without proper TBI education she believes she would feel she was going crazy but now understands the devastating impact of a brain injury and what she can do to heal.

One patient who is a professional with a busy practice with a car accident related brain injury described it this way. “I am not where I want to be. I feel like a victim. I just don’t feel the same and don’t want to do the things I used to do. I’m just not up to it. I don’t want to do the job I used to do. I am too tired and feel run down all the time. I don’t know what it will take to get back to where I was. I am not sleeping well, I have dizziness, headaches, blurred vision, I forget and misplace things all the time, and have difficulty with confusion and keeping up with the things I need to do.” With early identification and appropriate treatment, it does not have to be this way.

Common brain injury related problems involve headaches, not being able to function at work or in relationships, difficulty making decisions, trouble remembering things, difficulty with concentration and focusing, blurred vision or other visual problems, dizziness and balance problem, sensitivity to light and sound, speech problems such as trouble following conversations, slurred speech, and wording finding difficulties, math and reading problems, and changes in personality and emotions such as mood swings, impulsivity, depression, anxiety and lowered self-esteem.

As with most behavioral problems, awareness and education are a big part of the battle.

More from James F. Zender Ph.D.
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