October 19, 2023

An adult child of a senior experiencing behavioral changes after a brain injury wraps her arm around him as they sit outside.

Are you prepared to handle behavioral changes after a brain injury?

There are a variety of brain injuries, but there are behavioral changes that persist regardless of the type of brain injury. Different problematic behavioral changes after a brain injury may be more or less likely according to the area and severity of the trauma, but your loved one may demonstrate one or more of these behaviors during the course of traumatic brain injury recovery, regardless of the specifics of the injury.

The first step in managing difficult behavioral changes after a brain injury is to familiarize yourself with those behaviors so you can recognize them—not take them personally, help when possible, and intervene when required. Recognizing the behavior as 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 emotionally and physically safe.

What Are Some of the Changes You May Notice After a TBI?

  • Poor Concentration – People who have experienced a brain injury may become easily distracted, have difficulty with multitasking, lose track in a conversation, or experience information overload.
  • Personality Changes – While everyone goes through personality changes throughout life, someone who has experienced a traumatic brain injury can experience extreme, sudden personality changes that can be disorienting to the people who know and love them.
  • AggressionAggressive behavior after a brain injury is very common. Learning what triggers a loved one can help avoid this challenging behavioral change after a brain injury.
  • Denial  – It is common for people with traumatic brain injuries to adamantly insist that they are not having any problems. Sometimes this is due to the actual brain injury, but it also can be basic denial unconsciously executed as a coping mechanism to delay the confrontation of fear and/or uncertainty about how to handle the realities of life after trauma.
  • Empathy Issues – After a brain injury, your loved one might suddenly seem very self-centered. For instance, they might demand rather than ask nicely, or say things that hurt your feelings or are unrealistic without seeming to care. The lack of empathy is not a lack of love. It is an injury-related difficulty caused by issues with abstract thinking skills.
  • Memory Problems – Most people expect memory loss after a traumatic brain injury. Short-term memory problems or amnesia can occur, but, surprisingly, the retention of new information is the most prevalent memory-related problem people will likely experience as a result of brain trauma.
  • Emotional Volatility – Emotional volatility, also called emotional lability, is a rapid, frequently exaggerated mood swing that is often extreme and might come across as an overreaction.
  • Inappropriate Emotional Responses – A loved one might not demonstrate emotional responses to stimuli that prompted those very responses before the brain injury. They may not laugh when something is funny, smile when seeing something pleasant, or cry when something is sad. The response may also be contextually unsuitable, not matching the current state. For example, they may laugh when sad or cry for no particular reason.
  • Sexual Inappropriateness – Someone with a traumatic brain injury might have an increased interest in sex, a reduced interest in sex, or a lack of understanding about the contextual appropriateness of a sexual expression or behavior.

If you understand what behaviors are prevalent in traumatic brain injuries, you can be ready for them as they appear and see them for what they are—a symptom of the injury. They are not a reflection of the person’s thoughts or emotional investment in you.

If you have a loved one with a traumatic brain injury and need help with any of these difficult behaviors, either at home or in a care facility, Continuum can help. If you’re in St. Louis, Kirkwood, Clayton, or the surrounding areas, contact us to schedule your free care consultation online or at 314-863-9912.