Behavioral Changes Caused by a Traumatic Brain Injury

: The adult child of a senior wraps her arm around him as they discuss the behavioral changes caused by a traumatic brain injury.

Learn about the inappropriate behavioral changes caused by a traumatic brain injury and how to help someone manage them.

While there are many different types of brain injuries, there are behavioral changes expected no matter what type of brain injury occurs. Certain problematic behaviors may be more or less likely depending on the location and extent of the trauma, but your loved one might demonstrate one or more of these behaviors throughout TBI recovery, regardless of the specifics of the injury.

The first step in handling inappropriate behavior in a loved one with a brain injury is to understand what those behaviors are so that you can identify them – not taking them personally, helping when possible, and intervening when required. Understanding that the behavioral changes caused by a traumatic brain injury are a symptom of the injury can help inform your decision about the best course of action to keep yourself, your loved one, and the people in your life both physically and emotionally safe.

Memory Problems – Most people expect to see memory problems in loved ones who have recently experienced a traumatic brain injury. Short-term memory problems or amnesia can happen, but, surprisingly, the retention of new information is the most common memory-related issue people will likely experience as a result of brain trauma.

Empathy Issues – Someone who’s recently suffered a brain injury may start to feel self-centered. For example, they might demand rather than ask in a polite manner, or say things that hurt your feelings or are irrational without seeming to care. The lack of empathy is not a lack of love. It is an injury-related problem caused by issues with abstract thinking skills.

Inappropriate Emotional Response – One potentially unsettling behavioral change caused by a traumatic brain injury is that the person may not respond to stimuli the same way they did before the injury. They may not laugh when something is funny, smile when seeing something pleasant, or cry when something is sad. The response might also be contextually inappropriate, not matching the current state. For example, they may laugh when sad or cry for no particular reason.

Denial – Many people who have experienced a traumatic brain injury will be in denial about their symptoms. At times this is due to the actual brain injury, but it also can be basic denial unconsciously executed as a coping mechanism to postpone the confrontation of fear and/or uncertainty about how to navigate the realities of life after trauma.

Sexual Inappropriateness – Someone with a traumatic brain injury may have an enhanced interest in sex, a decreased interest in sex, or a lack of understanding about the contextual appropriateness of a sexual expression or behavior.

Poor Concentration – After a traumatic brain injury, a person may become easily distracted, have difficulty with multitasking, lose track in a conversation or experience information overload.

AggressionAggressive behavior can be a very challenging behavioral change caused by a traumatic brain injury. Understanding what triggers an aggressive response for your loved one can help in preventing the behavior.

Emotional Volatility – Emotional volatility, also called emotional lability, is a sudden, frequently exaggerated mood swing that is often extreme and may come across as an overreaction.

Personality Change – Everyone goes through personality changes as they progress through life, but people with a brain injury can experience extreme, immediate personality changes that can be disorienting to the people who know and love them.

Familiarizing yourself with these common behavioral changes caused by brain injuries will help you be ready for them as they appear and to see them for what they are – an effect of the injury. They are not a reflection of the person’s opinion or emotional investment in you.

If you have a loved one with a TBI and need help navigating any of these difficult behaviors, either at home or in a care facility, Harmony Home Health and Hospice can help in Salt Lake City, Tooele, Ogden, and the surrounding areas. Contact us to schedule your care consultation online or at 1-877-463-3322.