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Sustaining a Traumatic Brain Injury

Sustaining a traumatic brain injury is a serious matter that requires medical attention. Traumatic brain injury, or TBI, occurs when a person receives a blow to their head or body, causing their brain to bounce against their skull. Traumatic brain injury symptoms vary depending on the severity of the brain injury. Because our brains are such complex organs, there are many side effects that can follow a brain injury. Read more to understand the latest research on traumatic brain injury. Learn how TBI can impact daily life and what disabilities and psychiatric disorders connect to traumatic brain injury.

What is a Traumatic Brain Injury? How Does a Traumatic Brain Injury Affect Daily Life and Behavior?

Traumatic brain injuries occur when someone sustains a violent blow or jolt to the head or body. According to the Mayo Clinic, a traumatic injury to the brain includes “bruising, torn tissue, bleeding and other physical damage.” Traumatic brain injury includes both temporary mild brain injury and severe TBI with long-term effects.

If a person sustains a traumatic brain injury, not only can it dramatically impact their daily life. It can alter their behavior, personality, and even brain function. writes that “most people with moderate to severe TBI face life challenges that will require them to adapt and adjust to a new reality.” Learn how a traumatic brain injury can affect daily life and behavior below.

Is Traumatic Brain Injury Permanent? Is It Curable?

Traumatic brain injury symptoms depend on the severity of the brain injury. If a person sustains a mild traumatic brain injury, they can recover within days. On the other hand, more severe brain injuries can lead to worse outcomes that last longer.

Side effects like seizures, nerve damage, blood clots, narrowing of blood vessels, stroke, coma, and brain infection can occur immediately after sustaining the injury, according to the National Institutes of Health. There are also long-term side effects that can develop over a week after the injury.

TBI patients will report problems with their senses, motor functions, and cognition. They risk permanent mental or physical disability due to the damage to their brain. This can last a lifetime.

Longer-Term effects of a traumatic brain injury include problems with:

  • “Cognition, such as difficulty learning, remembering, making decisions, and reasoning
  • Senses, such as double vision, a bitter taste in the mouth or loss of the sense of taste, ringing in the ears, and tingling or pain
  • Communication, such as trouble talking, reading, writing, and explaining feelings or thoughts
  • Behavior, including difficulty with social situations, relationships, self-control, and aggression
  • Emotions, including depression, anxiety, mood swings, and irritability,” says the National Institute of Health.

Other sources list motor deficits like paralysis, spasticity, and fine motor function problems, as well as  decreased ability to perform at work or school.

What is Post-Concussion Syndrome?

Post-concussion syndrome is when someone has “persistent post-concussion symptoms” after a mild traumatic brain injury. These symptoms also last longer than expected. For most people who sustain a mild traumatic brain injury, their symptoms appear in 7 to 10 days from the injury and go away in about 3 months. For some, these symptoms last longer, sometimes for over a year, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Post-concussion syndrome symptoms are similar to the immediate side effects of a brain injury. Headaches are common and are like tension headaches. Dizziness, fatigue, irritability, ringing in their ears, and blurred vision are also common.

Increased age has been identified as a risk factor for developing post-concussion syndrome, as has sex. Women are more likely to be diagnosed, but they are also more likely to seek medical attention.

How Often Do TBI Patients Develop Long-Term Disabilities?

The American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) estimates that there were 2.9 million cases of TBI in the US in 2014. Almost 90,000 of those have developed long-term disabilities related to their TBI. A PubMed study found that about 25% of patients hospitalized with TBI will develop a long-term disability.

AANS breaks down the numbers around TBI patients facing positive outcomes. Patients who sustained a moderate brain injury had a 7-10% chance of “death or a persistent vegetative state. […] The remainder of patients will have a severe degree of disability.”

Only 25-33% of patients with a severe brain injury experience a positive outcome. “About 33% of these patients do not survive. The remaining few percent remain persistently vegetative.”

How Does a Traumatic Brain Injury Affect Daily Life and Behavior?

Traumatic brain injury can leave someone with a permanent mental or physical disability. Because of this, returning to your normal daily activities after a traumatic brain injury can be difficult or impossible.

Immediately after sustaining a traumatic brain injury, a patient may need hospitalization for complications like blood clots or stroke. Headaches or nausea can impact a TBI patient’s day-to-day life, compounded by cognitive changes. It can feel hard to make decisions, remember details, write, and even talk in social situations. Additionally, anxiety, depression, and aggression can manifest after a brain injury. Any one of these changes can cause a TBI patient to change not only their daily life, but the way they behave, think, or feel on an ongoing basis.

Is Traumatic Brain Injury a Mental Illness? Can Traumatic Brain Injury Cause Psychiatric Disorders?

Traumatic Brain Injury is not considered a mental illness. There is a variety of research into the connection between traumatic brain in injury and the onset of some mental illnesses, though. Researchers have associated traumatic brain injury with psychiatric disorders like:

  • Depression
  • Bipolar Affect Disorder
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
  • Panic Disorder
  • Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Substance Abuse
  • Personality Disorders

The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences  reviewed over 40 different TBI studies. They examined which, if any, psychiatric disorders developed after brain injury. They found that the linkage between sustaining a traumatic brain injury and the above psychiatric disorders varied.

According to their researcher, there’s “a strong association between TBI and mood and anxiety disorders. Substance abuse and schizophrenia didn’t correlate with TBI. And there is little research into the rates of personality disorders after TBI.

The likelihood of developing depression after a head injury was approximately 44%. The likelihood of a personality disorder was less than 1%.

How Does Traumatic Brain Injury Affect Learning?

Traumatic brain injuries sufferers often struggle with focus and memory. This changes how they learn and process information. This can happen to both children and adults. It leaves them with different cognitive abilities than before their accident. This can be a frustrating feeling when you want to return to daily life after a TBI.

For children, returning to the classroom is a challenging experience. It can be further impacted if they don’t have access to learning accommodations. Neuropsychologists, psychologists, and trained school psychologists should assess a child’s academic and cognitive abilities after their injury. Then, they can determine how they can best receive assistance. Extra assistance might look like more time to complete work, extended breaks, extra information from the teacher, assistive technology, or adjusted participation.

The Brain Injury Association of America recognized ages 15 to 24 as “among the highest risk” for sustaining a brain injury. “This is problematic as the injuries occur when individuals are just beginning to plan or venture into their independent lives, and for many the most important step in this process is obtaining an education. The challenges a student experiences after a traumatic brain injury vary significantly depending on the severity of the injury. In the most severe cases, the child may not be able to function independently in any capacity. A thorough evaluation of the student’s academic and cognitive abilities is essential to determine what accommodations are necessary,” Will Dane, Manager of Public Affairs for Brain Injury Association of America states.

Extensive information to help students return to school after a traumatic brain injury can be found on the Accredited Schools Online website.

What To Do If You Think You Have a Concussion

If you or someone you know has hit their head or body recently and may have a concussion, get prompt medical attention to assess the injury. Some people who sustain a concussion experience life-threatening side effects that need care from a qualified medical practitioner. The physicians at Watermark Medical Partners can help assess the degree of your brain injury. Click the link below to learn more or call us at (949) 284-0575 to discuss how we can help.

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