The brain injury charity, Headway, are leading the way in the Action for Brain Injury Week as part of their continuing campaign to raise awareness and to offer support to those effected by traumatic brain injury.
The focus of Action for Brain Injury Week this year is “See the hidden me” – aiming to raise awareness of the invisible effects of brain injury, often described as a hidden disability. The physical and psychological effects are often unapparent to those not close to the injured and this can lead to misunderstanding, frustration and unnecessary challenges for a survivor already limited by their injury.
One of the main aims of Brain Injury Week 2022 is to raise awareness of these challenges arising from the hidden nature of the injury by giving survivors and those close to them a platform on which they can voice their experiences. The ultimate aim is to improve insight within the public at large so that the challenges faced by survivors and their families are reduced.
What are the main hidden effects of brain injury?
Behavioural and personality changes are a common consequence of a brain injury. The trauma to the brain leads to a change in personality that can be completely unrecognisable from the pre-injury characteristics. This issue can be worsened if the brain injury survivor does not have insight into their personality change and is unable to explain this to the wider public.
Depression and anxiety: - It is quite common for someone to experience persistent depression and anxiety following a brain injury regardless of whether they had experienced good mental health before the trauma. The injury can impair the brain’s ability to moderate mood and responses to stressful or challenging situations. Similarly, the individual is likely to be facing many new challenges following their brain injury that deprives them of their previous life. They may lose their independence, the ability to work and suffer a loss of important relationships, leading to isolation and as a consequence, increased depression and anxiety.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) : PTSD is a severe and debilitating psychological condition in response to a traumatic event. It is a relatively common condition in those who have suffered a brain injury after a traumatic accident, where they have a clear recollection of events. This leads to disturbing flashbacks, avoidance behaviour and heightened responses to memories of the trauma. Intensive therapy to treat the condition is usually required.
Frustration and anger: many survivors of brain injury are understandably frustrated and angry at the restrictions, changes and loss caused by their injury. This reaction can be heightened by the damage caused to the brain, leading to a reduced ability to control their anger or aggression. Even in the calmest of individuals, a brain injury can cause increased irritability, impatience and lack of tolerance. Where individuals are unable to mange their behaviour as a result of brain injury, it often results in very challenging situations in their personal lives and in the workplace.
Disinhibition: this is a loss or impairment to the individual’s ability to control their behaviour, which leads to them acting in socially inappropriate ways and unpredictably. Examples of disinhibition may include a willingness to speak inappropriately, react inappropriately to situations, display extreme outbursts of anger or reveal personal information too freely. One particular area that can cause significant problems is in relation to sexual behaviour, for example leading to inappropriate remarks or advances.
Impulsiveness: - similar to the lack of inhibition, a common consequence of brain injury is that the survivor will act or speak without first giving their behaviour proper thought. This can also lead to inappropriate behaviour, difficult situations and embarrassment for those involved. Other consequences can include an inability to spend money impulsively or to act in such a way that it becomes very difficult for them to interact with the general public.
Fatigue: - a common symptom of brain injury is a sense of overwhelming tiredness that causes limitations in the individual’s ability to carry out day to day activities. It can cause physical weakness, an increased need to sleep and a general loss of motivation. It also causes difficulties in returning to work or acting as a carer. It leads to a reduction in social interaction that in turn causes isolation and loss of relationships.
Impaired Insight and Empathy – a brain injury can cause challenges in accurately interpreting your own and other people’s behaviour and feelings. A loss of self-awareness can lead to considerable frustration for the survivor and their family as they struggle to understand why they are being restricted from doing certain activities. It is also linked to the survivor acting inappropriately without appreciating that they have done anything wrong.
Cognitive impairment – although it is more widely understood that a brain injury often impacts on the functioning of the brain, it is still a hidden disability, not usually apparent to the wider public. Our cognitive abilities are the thinking skills of the brain and include our attention, information processing speed, reduced concentration skills, memory and higher-level executive functions such as planning and problem-solving.
Can the hidden effects of brain injury be treated?
It is possible with high-quality, focussed rehabilitation to improve the outcome for survivors of brain injury. The ultimate aim of rehabilitation is to return the survivor to as close to their per-injury self as possible, concentrating on improving their functional ability to maximise their independence. Because of the complexity of brain injury and the numerous consequences, brain injury rehabilitation is frequently provided by multidisciplinary teams of health professionals, along with family members and friends, who work together. The support provided is designed to improve, maintain, restore and compensate physical, cognitive, behavioural, social and psychological recovery.
The provision of early therapy and support can address a range of hidden injuries, including:
- Behavioural problems, including anger and disinhibition
- Problems with memory
- Improving fatigue and increasing interactions
- Speech and language difficulties
- Psychological conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression.
The specialist brain injury team at IBB Law have represented survivors of brain injury for many years. We fully support Headway in their aim for this awareness week “to empower individuals to talk about when these hidden disabilities has made life more challenging, whilst also asking the general public for more understanding and respect through better insight into the invisible challenges individuals experience everyday”.
For more information on Headway and Action for Brain Injury Week, please visit the Headway website. If you would like to discuss the brain injury compensation services offered by IBB Law, please call us on 0333 123 9099. Alternatively, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or use the contact form on the right to request a call back.