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TBI: How Emotions and Behaviors Change? by Charles Watson


Posted on June 3, 2020

Our brain is responsible for many functions, including control of emotions and behaviors. But this ability of the brain gets compromised after a person experiences TBI. However, it varies with the severity of the person’s TBI. A severe one might have a more drastic change than a mild one.

Going through “Mood Swings” or “Flat Affect”

A simpler term to associate with these emotional and behavioral ups and downs is mood swings. A TBI patient feels intense fluctuation of emotions and actions that are hard to control. One minute they can be laughing and feeling excited while the next they may be crying or feeling anxiety. These sudden transitions in moods are unpredictable outbursts that need monitoring and patience to handle with.

On the other hand, TBI victims also go through “flat affect,” which is basically the opposite of emotional and aggressive outbursts. They become quiet, emotionless, and reserved. It’s completely normal and common for a TBI patient to encounter 

  • Verbal and physical outbursts
  • Impaired sense of judgment
  • Frustration 
  • Intolerance
  • Egocentricity
  • Inflexibility
  • Depression/anxiety and
  • Lack of empathy

Instead of bottling up and ignoring these symptoms, confide in a family member or a support group since the first few months are comparatively harder to cope with. It gets better with time and can be controlled with professional help.

How to cope with emotions and impulsive behavior?

The first and most reliable approach should be consulting a neuropsychologist or behavioral therapist to have an insight into your condition. You will be advised to practice breathing strategies like inhaling deeply and slowly breathing out whenever you feel aggression and agitation for no particular reason. 

With a friend’s or family’s help, try diverting yourself from negative thoughts by either exercising or going out. Unless you have severe TBI, then avoid going in public very often since it can trigger improper behavior and severe headaches.

Vent out your feelings and concerns with someone you consider close. We understand that this emotional roller coaster and outbursts are not in your control but acknowledge and clear out any misunderstandings from your side. 

Responsibly aware people around you about your condition beforehand and consciously try to calm yourself. If the frequency of your surges continues to increase, then consult your doctor for some medication or drug to make you stable. 

Take an extended leave from work post-injury and rest as much as possible so that it’s easier to cope with uncalled behavior. Make sure to have at least one person around you at all times to prevent further complications in case of emergencies.

Untreated depression can lead to insomnia hence short-temper and violent nature. The first step to curing depression is accepting and understanding your mood swings. Stay away from stressful and strenuous chores; instead, ask your caretaker to help you out. Meditation and psychotherapy can also help with depression. 

It is essential to trust at least one person around you to depend on. Accepting that your condition cannot be handled on your own and asking for help is nothing to be ashamed of. Along with medications and exercise, maintain a healthy, nutritious diet by seeking advice from a nutritionist, according to TBI.