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Emotional problems following a traumatic brain injury

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Often, following a traumatic brain injury, people can experience emotional problems, the most common involving anger and irritability.

Having a short temper and flying off the handle is very common in people with a brain injury. How to manage this behaviour, both for the injured person and their loved ones can be difficult.

What causes emotional problems after a brain injury?

There are many factors which can have an impact on someone feeling irritable and angry after a brain injury. These can include:

  • Damage to the part of the brain that controls emotional response (the frontal lobe and limbic system).
  • Frustration at the injuries that have been sustained and how they have affected your life.
  • Depression, low mood and anxiety following your accident.
  • Problems with memory, concentration and attention.
  • Feelings of fatigue and exhaustion.
  • Communication problems and being unable to follow conversations or contribute to them.
  • Being unable to solve problems as easily as you once would have.

A common problem with brain injury survivors and feelings of anger can be their lack of inhibitions. Losing your sense of inhibition can mean you are more likely to say what is on your mind before considering the consequences. This can lead to behaviour which is socially unacceptable and explaining this to someone with a brain injury can lead to feelings of frustration and anger.

A thermometer is often used by treating clinicians and family members to help someone with a brain injury to explain the anger they are feeling and help them to understand and become aware of their feelings. This can be the first step to them understanding what is going on and learning to deal with their emotional responses.

Tips to controlling emotion following a brain injury

There are some things that can be done to help the emotional response of a brain injury survivor and help them to react accordingly and avoid angry outbursts:

  • Identifying triggers of irritability, anger and frustration and then trying to remove these.
  • Learning basic anger management techniques, such as calming strategies, relaxation techniques and learning to communicate in other ways.
  • Removing yourself from situations if you can feel your anger building. Learning warning signs of anger can help you to understand when to walk away.
  • Keeping a written diary of how you are feeling to track your mood and understand what may be making you feel angry.

Tips for loved ones of a brain injury survivor

Although it can be difficult to come to terms with the changes in your loved one following a brain injury, it is important to remember that their anger, frustration and irritability are as a result of their injury and you should try to support them to the best of your ability.

You should:

  • Try to avoid confrontation and arguments. Let them cool off before speaking to them about any problems.
  • If you can see them getting angry, try to agree prompts with them so you can indicate they need to walk away from the situation and calm down.
  • If their anger is aimed at you, remove yourself from the area until they have calmed down.
  • Set some communication rules to help them to understand that shouting, threatening or using violence is not acceptable behaviour.
  • Help them to learn new ways to deal with their anger and frustration.

It can be extremely difficult for everyone involved following a brain injury, and knowing where to turn to for support can be challenging. One way of getting help and support immediately is by instructing a specialist brain injury compensation solicitor.

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