by Michelle West
Traumatic Brain Injury, Part 1
In this series of blog posts, The Independence Center will be giving advice on how to work with a person with a traumatic brain injury. In this first part, The Independence Center has pulled together general information about how a person with a TBI might think and behave.
What is a traumatic brain injury?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a traumatic brain injury is, “…a disruption in the normal function of the brain that can be caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head, or penetrating head injury. Everyone is at risk for a TBI, especially children and older adults.” (Source: https://www.cdc.gov/traumaticbraininjury/)
How does a traumatic brain injury occur?
The CDC says that, “A TBI is caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the normal function of the brain. Not all blows or jolts to the head result in a TBI. The severity of a TBI may range from “mild,” i.e., a brief change in mental status or consciousness to “severe,” i.e., an extended period of unconsciousness or amnesia after the injury.” This is why children, adults, and seniors can all be affected by this disruption which can lead to death or permanent disability. “In 2010, 2.5 million TBIs occurred either as an isolated injury or along with other injuries.” (Source: https://www.cdc.gov/traumaticbraininjury/basics.html)
At The Independence Center, Dr. Kevin Corrigan, who has a traumatic brain injury himself, works in our Independent Living peer support program and leads peer support groups for those with a TBI in Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak region of Colorado. During The Independence Center’s all-staff meeting, Dr. Corrigan presented a PowerPoint that educated the staff on the topic of traumatic brain injury that’s he’s gained from his personal experience and medical training.
In this blog, The Independence Center will post this information about traumatic brain injuries in 4 parts so be on the lookout for all of them! This first part will give general information on traumatic brain injuries, part 2 will highlight how you can interact with someone who has a TBI, the third will note what not to do with someone who has a TBI, and the fourth will sum up the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) statistics.
People with a traumatic brain injury generally have a different mindset. That’s because the executive functioning part of the brain has been affected. “Executive function is a set of mental skills that help you get things done. These skills are controlled by an area of the brain called the frontal lobe.” (Source: http://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/guide/executive-function#1)
Some of the disruptions you might notice that a person with a traumatic brain injury exhibits are:
- A traumatic brain injury changes the way a person thinks, remembers/forgets, and processes new information
- The ability to organize, prioritize, and plan for the future can be greatly affected
- Keeping track of “the big picture” (or the main goal) can be difficult for a person with a brain injury
- The ability to focus on the important things while disregarding the irrelevant things can be impaired. The ability to “filter-out” unimportant information is affected
Some common problems of people with a history of a TBI are:
- Memory problems, attention problems, confusion, problems concentrating
- Personality changes, such as disinhibition, impulse control problems, anti-social behavior, depression, anxiety, anger, mood-swings
- Fatigue, lack of energy, and lack of initiative (others may interpret this as disinterest or laziness)
- Problems with self-awareness and denial
It can be challenging! A person with a TBI may seem at times like “Jekyll and Hyde!”
- They are desperate for attention and could be angry at everyone
- They could feel depressed, isolated, and angry, making them ready to lash-out
- They can be lethargic, slow, agitated, and impulsive!
There’s good news! Just because someone has a disability of a TBI, doesn’t mean they’re limited to interacting in a certain way. Understanding their challenges can be a great support to them! If you are interacting with someone with a traumatic brain injury, look for our next blog post, part 2, which will detail how you can support and interact successfully with a person who has a TBI. And remember to tell them about The Independence Center’s peer support groups for people with traumatic brain injuries! For more information on The Independence Center’s peer support groups for people with TBIs, contact us (link here!) or check out our calendar of events! (link here)