There are three types of brain injury:

  • A Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is defined as an injury to the brain or head as a result of a trauma, for example in a road accident.
  • Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) is defined as any brain injury that occurs after birth, including traumatic brain injuries.
  • A Congenital Brain Injury is defined as any brain injury that occurs before a baby is born, whilst the baby is still in the womb.

The effects of brain injuries can be vast and vary greatly from person to person.

The main problems people may face following a brain injury are generally classified into four categories:

  1. Physical – the way in which the body works.
  2. Cognitive – memory and the way we think and learn.
  3. Emotional – the way we feel.
  4. Behavioural – the way we act.

Physical effects of a brain injury

Many of the physical injuries sustained in a brain injury will heal long before the brain itself can recover. This means there are sometimes no external factors to indicate if someone is suffering from an ongoing brain injury.

However, brain injuries can cause problems with movement and balance, as well as coordination. Someone with a brain injury can have ongoing problems of weakness in muscles and paralysis. They can also sometimes experience a loss of sensation in certain areas of the body, as well as problems with their senses.

Extreme tiredness and fatigue are also common after a brain injury. People with brain injuries need to recognise when their energy levels are falling and rest accordingly.

Around 25% of people who have sustained a severe head injury and brain damage can also suffer from headaches. These can still occur up to 2 years after the initial accident and maybe even longer. They can be made worse by stress or worry.

There is also an increased risk of someone experiencing epilepsy and epileptic attacks following a brain injury. This is because scar tissue on the brain can make the area unstable and more likely to have uncontrollable activity. These are associated more with injuries which have penetrated the brain, including skull fractures and objects which have struck and penetrated the head.

Cognitive effects of a brain injury

Cognitive problems affect the way we think and remember things. After a brain injury, there are several cognitive functions that can be affected. These include:

  • Problems with memory which can include both short and long-term memory loss. There are many areas of the brain which control memory and any damage to one of these areas can lead to poor memory.
  • Lack of concentration and a poor attention span is a common effect of a brain injury. People with brain injuries can become easily distracted and have trouble concentrating, especially when there are external factors contributing, such as stress, tiredness or worry.
  • The speed of processing information after a brain injury can decrease. This may result in the injured person being unable to process fast speech or have problems taking instructions the first time around. They may also have difficulty responding to questions.
  • Visual and perceptual problems. Eyesight and hearing may appear to be unaffected by a brain injury. However, the area of the brain which processes incoming signals from these organs may be damaged. This can result in difficulties judging distances and spatial awareness. Visual problems can also include only being able to process part of what can be seen, so half of the image will be missed by the brain.

Emotional and behavioural effects of a brain injury

After a brain injury, people will often notice a change in the injured person’s behaviour and their emotional responses to events.

These changes can be more subtle than the physical and cognitive problems but can have the biggest effect on their lives and the lives of their loved ones. A change in personality can be very difficult to come to terms with for all those involved.

Some emotional and behavioural effects can include:

  • Feelings of agitation and confusion.
  • Fits of anger and feelings of irritation.
  • Loss of self-awareness and insight into different situations.
  • Impulsiveness and a lack of inhibitions.
  • Loss of control of emotions and how to express feelings.
  • Self-centeredness.
  • Lack of motivation and interest.
  • Depression.
  • Anxiety and panic attacks.
  • Inflexibility and obsessive behaviours.
  • Sexual problems.

The effects of a brain injury can greatly reduce the quality of life for an injured person and their family. However, due to the complexity of the brain, every case is different. This means that it is possible for people to make a full recovery after a severe brain injury.