Posted by Charlotte Webb, Associate
5 ‘hidden’ symptoms of a brain injury
The effects of a brain injury on a person can be physical, cognitive, emotional and behavioural. The latter three are essentially hidden from the average person, and therefore less well understood.
Every brain injury is different as the effect depends on what part of the brain was injured and the type of person they were before the injury. Here are five symptoms you may not be aware of:
This is a very common symptom after a brain injury but relates to mental fatigue rather than physical fatigue. We have all had times where we feel we need to sit down and relax even though we have not been doing a tiring physical activity. This is often because our brain has been overworked and needs a rest. Following brain injury it is common to find simple tasks tiring to complete because greater concentration is needed.
Experiencing fatigue often makes other brain injury symptoms worse such as issues with concentration and memory. Many of our clients find coping strategies to deal with fatigue such as scheduling their time so they can take rest breaks during the day.
Many brain injury survivors report feeling like a new person after their injury. The change might be obvious, such as a lack of interest in something they were previously passionate about, or a new found love for a particular football team or animal. There can also be more serious changes such as a short temper or becoming disinterested.
Sometimes the brain injured person might be completely unaware of how their personality has changed or how the injury has affected them. This lack of insight can be particularly difficult for partners and family members to deal with.
There are small structures at the base of the brain responsible for regulating the body’s hormones. They are called the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus. Damage to these areas can lead to insufficient or increased release of one or more hormones. The hypothalamus regulates the pituitary gland and together they are vital in managing growth, hunger, thirst, puberty and sexual maturity, sexual functioning and libido, energy levels and weight.
Damage to this part of the brain can be particularly problematic for a child. For example, a child may have stunted growth or a young female can start menstruating early.
There are areas of our brains that stop us acting or saying inappropriate things. This is the frontal lobe and when this is damaged, things are said or done without forethought. Someone with a brain injury may appear to be rude or insensitive but it is the brain injury that has stopped them having the filter that the rest of us have.
There may be a loss of control over social behaviour, so that the person may behave in an over-familiar manner or may make sexual advances with the wrong people at the wrong time.
Sense of humour
Damage to the right side of the brain may lead the person to interpret verbal information very concretely. This means that a person with a brain injury is often unable to understand figures of speech including euphemism and hyperbole. They can take a phrase such as “break a leg” very literally.
The person with a brain injury may have a reduced ability to grasp humour or sarcasm and may miss the subtle nuances of conversation. This type of difficulty can result in the person taking things the wrong way and they may take good-natured teasing as genuine insults.
Brain injury doesn’t always present itself in obvious ways, and often this causes difficulties for those who are trying to adjust to an entirely new way of being. Our hope is that with increased awareness through initiatives like Action for Brain Injury Week will help the general public understand further these ‘hidden issues’.
If you or a loved one have experienced a brain injury as a result of an accident, find out how our team might be able to help
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