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How Anxiety Affects You After a Brain Injury by Charles Watson


Posted on January 24, 2021

Feeling uncontrollable bouts of mixed emotions after TBI is quite normal. A person might feel sudden mood swings that can at times, prove to be dangerous. Anxiety is an emotion we all feel at some point in life, whether it’s in the form of stage fright or going in for an interview. However, this ‘fight & flight’ mode is short-lived for people without brain injury. But for TBI victims, it is an everyday struggle and sometimes happens to be for no reason.

What external and psychological factors can trigger anxiety?

Brain injury can make a person highly sensitive to the most trivial things. It can be anything from daily communication to public interaction; the possibilities are countless and unpredictable. Since roughly 3.8 million people in the U.S. suffer from concussions every year, vast data of symptoms and causes have been recorded.

Some of the most common situations that triggered them to feel anxious were:

  • Crowded places
  • Bright light
  • Loud noise
  • Being watched or stared at
  • Workload 
  • Weight gain

These are some of the physical factors that you can keep in mind if you work as a caregiver for a TBI patient. The best way to handle an anxiety attack is to find an isolated spot if you are in public and try taking deep breaths. Take a mood-stabilizing pill or divert your mind with something that will help you regain your composure. As far as work is concerned, take up limited and small tasks that are doable. Don’t overload yourself with bulk work, which you may end up not completing due to severe headaches. You become what you eat. After TBI, it becomes even more crucial to take in more protein, nuts, minerals, vitamins, and lots of water.

Moving on to the psychological factors that can be a stimulus for anxiety and depression. Other than changes in the chemical composition of the brain’s natural chemical agents like neurotransmitters, the brain has difficulty processing and understanding situations. Due to nerve damage and brain hemorrhage, a TBI patient may develop disorders like Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and Panic disorder (PD).

PTSD is an unavoidable consequence of TBI. Patients may suffer from PTSD even years after their injury. It is such a vast disorder that treating it can be an extensive procedure. The many evident signs of PTSD are mood swings, constant depression, and disorientation. 

Unfortunately, TBI also brings along OCD behavior in patients. The obsessiveness and repetition in actions lead to frustration. Once the surroundings and things are not according to them, they indulge in anxiety and obsess over petty things until they get their own way. 

Panic disorder is mostly related to physical inconveniences. This includes sweating, dizziness, choking, numbness and tingling, and shortness of breath. These signs only exaggerate the feeling of anxiety. 

Generalized anxiety often tends to make the patient paranoid and insecure. They will absorb negativity very easily and worry about things that are out of their control. This interferes with their everyday activities and hinders their recovery.