How well do you know the symptoms of traumatic brain injuries? If I was to ask you to name all the signs of a traumatic brain injury, just how many could you think of off the top of your head?
Most people know the physical symptoms of TBIs fairly well. You would almost certainly list loss of consciousness, headache, or nausea or vomiting after a hard hit to the head. Some may also remember fatigue or drowsiness, sleep problems, and dizziness, and even sensitivity to light and sound as well as vision problems.
Those common physical and sensory symptoms can be very effective for identifying problems from a brain injury, but many people are unaware of the variety of mental and cognitive effect which can be just as debilitating for a person with a brain injury.
Individuals who suffer minor brain injuries often suffer memory and concentration problems, mood swings, and issues with depression or anxiety. The more severe brain injuries often make create more severe expressions of these symptoms, as well as anger or speech problems.
Mood swings and emotional symptoms of brain injuries are typically the result of damage to the parts of the brain regulating emotions and behavior, creating sudden and unprovoked emotional responses. These can be improved or stabilized through the use of medications, if properly identified.
Depression is one of the most common symptoms of TBI, affecting around 25 percent of TBI patients. These patients reportedly experience feelings of loss, demoralization, and despair soon following their injury, which can grow into issues with fatigue, irritability, anhedonia (the inability to feel pleasure for your favorite activities), disinterest, and suicidal thoughts between 6 to 24 months after an injury. These symptoms can commonly be more long-lasting than the physical side-effects of brain injuries, yet they are regularly untreated or unidentified.
Dr. Mark Herceg, Director of Neuropsychology at Burke Rehabilitation Hospital in White Plains, N.Y. recently wrote about how we can better identify and treat emotional and cognitive symptoms following brain injuries. It can be difficult to comprehensively diagnose and treat all the symptoms and effects of brain injuries, especially with the gap in objective testing for traumatic brain injuries. But, we need to improve our ability to treat these common debilitating aspects of brain injury which are going ignored.