Improving Life After Brain Injury

What are the effects?

About Brain Injury and Stroke | Headway Black Country
The effects of a brain injury can be wide ranging and depend on factors such as the type, location and severity of the injury.

Every person’s injury is unique, and they may experience any number of the symptoms, ranging from mild to severe.

Changes to Perception, Memory, Judgement or Reasoning

Skills such as speed of thought, memory, understanding, concentration and solving problems may be affected. These “cognitive” effects of a brain injury affect the way a person thinks, learns and remembers. The extent of these changes depends on which areas of the brain have been affected.

Communication problems after brain injury are very common. Although most of us take it for granted, the ability to communicate (both speaking and understanding speech) uses many different parts of the brain and very complex interactions within the brain.

Emotional and behavioural changes

People who have had a brain injury can be left with changes in their emotional reactions and behaviour. These effects can be less obvious than, for example, changes in mobility or speech. Emotional and behavioural changes can be the most difficult effects for a survivor and their family to deal with. These may include;

• Agitation
• Explosive anger and irritability
• Lack of awareness and insight (a lack of understanding of other people’s actions or feelings)
• Impulsiveness and dis-inhibition (difficulty in controlling urges and impulses, speak, act, show emotions and unexpected behaviour in social situations)
• Emotional instability (for example, over-reacting in some situations)
• Self-centredness
• Apathy and poor motivation
• Depression
• Anxiety
• Inflexibility and obsessive behaviours
• Sexual problems

Changes in “Executive” functions after brain injury

Damage to thinking and planning is common after acquired brain injury and can have a big effect on many aspects of everyday life. These may include an individual’s capacity for:

• Planning and organisation
• Flexible thinking ( being able to alter ones behaviour)
• Multi-tasking
• Solving unusual problems
• Self-awareness
• Learning rules
• Making decisions
• Using appropriate behaviour and holding back inappropriate behaviour, particularly in social situations
• Controlling emotions
• Concentrating and taking in information

“Executive dysfunction” is the clinical term that refers to disruption of some or all of the things listed above. This often occurs after injury to the frontal lobes of the brain (the forehead).

Physical effects of brain injury

A good physical recovery after a brain injury often means there are few or no outward signs that an injury has occurred. However, there can be problems present that are not always so immediately visible, but which can have a real impact on daily life. These may include:

• Problems with movement, balance and co-ordination
• Dyspraxia – the inability to plan and perform purposeful movements
• Loss of sensation (including vision, hearing, taste and smell)
• Tiredness (fatigue)
• Headaches
• Speaking and swallowing disorders – dysphasia, dysphagia, dysarthria etc.
• Bladder and bowel incontinence
• Epilepsy – abnormal electrical discharge in the brain which may involve seizures or fits

Hormonal imbalances and pituitary dysfunction after brain injury

Brain injury may occasionally cause damage that can lead to the release of not enough or too much of one or more hormones. The effects of such an injury are many and varied because of the large number of hormones that can be affected. Some symptoms are similar to the more common effects of brain injury hence why hormonal effects may be under-diagnosed.

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