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Effects of a traumatic brain injury…

An traumatic brain injury is potentially one the most devastating disabilities.

There a wide range of potential effects and these vary significantly because of the complexity of the brain.

The range and severity of problems arising from a brain injury will vary significantly from person to person because every person’s brain injury varies in the extent and location of the damage. Some of the affects of a brain injury are not immediately obvious and only become apparent as time progresses.

I just want to get across some of the most common affects that brain injury victims may suffer from following an accident or injury as these affects can be devastating but surprisingly well hidden.

These affects not only cause devastating and great difficulties to the brain injury victims but also to the friends and family that no longer recognise there loved one and don’t understand what is going on.

Cognitive changes

Cognition is the conscious process of the mind by which we are aware of thought and perception, including all aspects of perceiving, thinking and recollection. In general, cognition is knowledge and is the way we learn and perceive the world around us.

The nature of and extent of these cognitive problems can become very frustrating for the friends and family of those indiviuals as the affects are not always obvious and very difficult to predict and understand.

A brain injury can cause cognitive changes which affect the individuals ability to learn new things, to work and to be able to interact socially.

Lack of insight

This in my opinion has got to be one of the most difficult problem for the friends and family to deal with. I can only imagine how one must feel when there loved one’s behaviour suddenly changes following an accident causing a brain injury. Individuals with a brain injury can have great difficulty seeing and accepting changes to their thinking and behaviour. It is therefore necessary to provide frequent, clear and simple explanations about why a problem is being treated or why the person is unable to do something. The individual may deny the effects of the injury and have unreasonable expectations about what they are able to do.

Memory problems

One of the most common cognitive changes is poor memory. There may be problems in remembering people’s names, passing on messages, or recalling details read in a book or anewspaper. They may forget what they are doing from one session to the next. Many are able to remember things that happened before the accident, but may have difficulty remembering things that happen from day-to-day since the accident.

Memory problems may cause the individual great difficulties in learning new things. Memory problems may resolve as the brain recovers but giving repeated practice of memory tasks will not necessarily bring about recovery.

Poor concentration

A very common outcome is an inability to concentrate and to become easily distracted from what they are doing. This is usually because they are having difficulty concentrating. The indiviuals may have a short concentration span, and keep jumping from one thing to the next.

Slowed responses

An individual with a brain injury may now be slower to answer questions or to perform tasks and may have difficulty in keeping up in conversations. Their capacity to respond quickly in an emergency may also be diminished. It is obviously vital that the individual is not put in a situation of potential risk by virtue of their slowed responses. This is often one reason why many people with brain injuries are not allowed to drive a motor vehicle. Depending on the type and severity of the brain injury, there may also be a need for careful supervision in the home.

Poor planning and problem-solving

Individuals with a brain injury might have difficulty solving problems and planning and organising things they have to do. They may encounter trouble with open-ended decision-making and complex tasks need to be broken down into a step-by-step fashion.

Lack of initiative

Often individuals that have acquired a brain injury might lose there initiative and fall into the trap of just sitting home all day long and watching Telly.


People with a brain injury can become very inflexible in their thinking. They can’t always change their train of thought and you may find that they tend to repeat themselves or fail to see things from other perspectives.


A brain injury can also make individuals very impulsive because they may have lost the filtering system or control system within the brain that makes them stop and think before they act. This can obviously lead to a wide range of behavioural problems and cause numerous difficulties with family and friends.


Individuals may also have a very low tolerance for frustration and can become easily agitated and may lose their temper quickly.

Socially inappropriate behaviour

People with a brain injury may no longer know how to act or behave in in social situations. This can be incredibly difficult for families to understand and cope with, particularly as they may no longer recognise their loved ones and not understand there behaviour.


A wide range of social skills may be affected by an a traumatic brain injury including the ability to have conversations, to interpret and respond to social cues, to show interest in others, to use humour appropriately, and to regulate the volume and tone of voice. They can often lose their listening skills, and may talk excessively. Accompanying memory problems may mean that they often repeat topics as well.


People with a brain injury can often appear to be self-centred, and may be very demanding and fail to see things from other people’s point of view. This can cause resentment from family members, and it is a key cause of them losing friends and failing to establish new friendships/relationships.


One of the possible consequences of self-centredness is a tendency for the person with a brain injury to become very dependent on others. This can result in the individual to not like being left alone, and to constantly demand attention or affection from others.

Emotional control

Just as people with a brain injury have difficulty controlling their behaviour, they may also have difficulty in controlling their emotions. The indvidual may cry too much or too often or laugh at inappropriate times, or they may suffer from rapid mood changes, from crying one minute to laughing the next.


Depression in an individual with brain injury is a very common emotional consequence that usually comes some time after the injury. Signs of depression include lack of motivation, loss of sexual drive, sleep disturbance and tearfulness.

Physical Changes
Loss of taste and smell

A blow to the head can cause loss of taste and smell. The s loss of taste and smell often leads to either lack of appetite, or obesity as the person compensates with very salty or fatty foods.

Dizziness and balance

Dizziness and balance are very common complaints after an acquired brain injury caused by damage to the Brain Stem, blood pressure fluctuations from damage to areas controlling the heart and blood flow or vertigo from damage to the inner ear.

Epilepsy and seizures

These are chronic medical conditions produced by temporary changes in the electrical function of the brain, causing seizures which affect awareness, movement, or sensation. Medication might be able to control these conditions well but some lives are devastated by frequent, uncontrollable seizures or associated disabilities.


Fatigue is a disorder of motivation that typically arises after injury to the Frontal Lobes, particularly the dorso-lateral area. This can result in loss of drive, indifference and placidity and they may find themselves exhausted for days if they do not carefully manage their limited energy levels.


There are multiple sources of head and neck pain, both inside and outside the head. Headaches arising from a brain injury can be caused by a number of reasons.

Visual problems

Vision and visual functioning is often adversely affected by brain injury. Some of the more common visual systems problems include double vision, rapid eye movement and near-sightedness.

Chronic pain

This kind of pain persists beyond the expected healing time and continues despite appropriate physical improvement in the affected area of the body. The pain can emerge as headaches, neck and shoulder pain, lower back pain and/or pain in other body areas if trauma caused the brain injury. The pain may be so intense and bothersome that the individual withdraws from work, family and social activities.


Differing degrees of paralysis can affect all parts of the body depending on which part of the brain has been injured. Effects can include poor coordination, difficulty walking, visual difficulties or weakness on one side of the body.

Hearing problems

Hearing problems can occur for a number of reasons, particularly when the inner ear and/or temporal lobes have been damaged. Tinnitus may be experienced as noises which are commonly like a buzzing, hissing or ringing in the ears. In some cases trauma to the inner ear can cause the person to be extremely sensitive to certain noises or pitches and may not be able to tolerate many environments.

Other Problems

So far only the more common issues have been looked at. However there are many other disorders that are much less common but no less debilitating.


A common misconception is that a brain injury is simply a type of intellectual disability. In actual fact many individuals whom acquire a brain injury usually retain their intellectual abilities but have difficulty controlling, coordinating and communicating their thoughts and actions.

A traumatic brain injury is often called the invisible disability. As there are frequently no outward physical signs of a disability, effects such as fatigue, lack of initiation, anger, mood swings and egocentricity may be seen simply as bad personality traits by others. It is easy to see why a traumatic brain injury can be such a devastating disability, especially when the disability is not obvious to others.

Early support

The right kind of support can achieve excellent results. It is always best to get the “right kind of support” as “early as possible.

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