Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is guaranteed to change everything about a person’s life. It’s not surprising then that people living with TBI frequently undergo a number of significant personality changes both immediately after their accidents, and in the months and years that follow.
From mood swings, impulse control issues, and extreme behavioral changes, it can sometimes be hard for TBI sufferers to even recognize themselves. Understanding why these changes occur is an important part of learning how to live with them, and how to mitigate their effects.
Depression and Anxiety
The magnitude of loss that TBI sufferers experience is undeniably overwhelming. For this and other reasons, chronic and severe depression is quite common. From balance and walking issues to an inability to return to work or engage in former hobbies, adjusting to life after TBI is emotionally taxing. Along with depression, many TBI victims also deal with intense general and social anxiety.
Extreme and rapidly fluctuating emotions can both be effects of TBI, however, severe depression and anxiety can also be the result of real concerns. People may be afraid of:
- Losing their marriages
- Facing extraordinary debt
- Being unable to cover their medical costs
- Becoming burdensome to those they love
Working with a neuropsychologist is helpful for addressing the neurological causes of depression and anxiety. However, consulting with a traumatic brain injury attorney is often the best way to mitigate the practical concerns that are also causing these emotions to manifest.
Moods Swing and Their Neurological Causes
Dramatic mood swings after sustaining a TBI can be frustrating to both the person experiencing them and those around them. TBI victims can toggle between laughing hysterically and weeping openly. Moreover, these actions may not reflect the way in which they actually feel. This is a condition called emotional lability and it is commonly associated with damage to the portion of the brain that controls feelings and behavior.
One of the most challenging aspects of emotional lability is the fact that the person experiencing it may not recognize that their behavior is abnormal. More often than not, there are also no triggers for these events. Thus, both preventing them and curtailing them can be next to impossible.
Some studies suggest that outbursts and mood swings among people with TBI may be connected to overstimulation. Being in a crowded or noisy room, having the television on too loud, or simply having too much to think about may lead to episodes of emotional lability. However, the dramatic changes in mood and behavior that are typical of emotional lability can also happen with no outside stimuli whatsoever.
Anger, Frustration and Aggressive Behavior
People with TBI may have a hard time communicating their feelings, understanding what other people are trying to say, or simply moving through their daily routines. Building frustration can lead to angry outbursts and aggressive behavior. When damage has been sustained at the frontal lobe, many people do and say things before they’ve had the chance to think them out.
No longer able to effectively filter their thoughts, TBI sufferers may say things that are inappropriate for the environment, unkind or outright incendiary. For family members and caregivers, outbursts and acts of aggression can be difficult to deal with or outright frightening.
Loss of Self-Confidence
When even small tasks are challenging, normal levels of confidence are difficult to maintain. People who live with TBI recognize that their lives and their abilities aren’t what they used to be. They may struggle emotionally with their inability to:
- Function as active parents
- Maintain their former level of emotional interaction with their spouses
- Make plans and successfully complete them
Rebuilding self-confidence after TBI is an ongoing and lifelong effort. Many victims of traumatic brain injury are able to make progress in this area by joining support groups, working with neuropsychologists and behavioral therapists and surrounding themselves with supportive family members and friends.
Personality and behavioral changes after TBI can be both permanent and constantly fluctuating. While certain atypical behaviors are the direct result of fears, frustrations, or anxiety that a person is feeling, others are caused by altered brain health and functioning. Although living with someone who feels like a stranger can be challenging, it’s often even more challenging to seem like a stranger to yourself.