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Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

What is a traumatic brain injury?

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) occurs when the brain is impacted by a blow or jolt to the head, such as in car accidents.

It can also result from the penetration of the skull.

These types of injuries disrupt normal brain function, leading to a variety of symptoms that can affect physical, cognitive, and psychological health.

Types of traumatic brain injuries

TBIs can be categorized as either penetrating or non-penetrating (blunt):

Penetrating TBI

Also known as open TBIs, these injuries occur when an object pierces the skull and enters the brain tissue, causing damage. Examples include being struck by shrapnel, a bullet, or a knife.

Blunt TBI

Also referred to as closed head TBIs, these injuries happen when an external force impacts the head, causing the brain to bounce or twist inside the skull. This type of injury can result from vehicle accidents, falls, blows to the head, explosions, or sports-related incidents.

Healthcare providers further classify TBIs based on their severity: mild, moderate, or severe. The term “concussion” is often used to describe mild TBIs, while moderate and severe TBIs are typically grouped together.

Mild TBI

Over 75% of all TBIs fall into this category. Despite being classified as mild, these injuries can still cause significant and long-term issues, making it challenging for individuals to return to their daily routines and work.

Moderate and Severe TBI

Individuals with moderate or severe TBIs are likely to develop significant and long-term health problems.

Symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injuries

Mild TBI (Concussion)

Mild TBIs, commonly known as concussions, are the most common type of TBI and usually result in temporary symptoms that resolve within a few weeks.

Cognitive Impairments

Memory problems can make it difficult to recall recent events or learn new information. Individuals might frequently forget where they placed items or have trouble remembering appointments. Attention deficits might manifest as trouble concentrating on tasks, becoming easily distracted, or struggling to stay focused during conversations or while reading.

Emotional and Behavioral Changes

Sudden changes in mood, such as irritability and mood swings, are common. Individuals might become easily frustrated or angered. Increased feelings of anxiety and depression can persist, affecting daily life and overall well-being.

Physical Symptoms

Frequent headaches can range from mild to severe, accompanied by dizziness or a sensation of spinning.

Constant tiredness, or fatigue, that doesn’t improve with rest, can make everyday tasks feel exhausting. Increased sensitivity to bright lights or loud noises can lead to discomfort or headaches.

Sleep Disturbances

Insomnia can cause difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up too early. Changes in sleep patterns, such as sleeping more or less than usual, can lead to further fatigue and cognitive issues.

Moderate/Severe TBI

Moderate TBIs involve more significant impacts and longer-lasting symptoms, which can persist for months and require more intensive management.

Severe TBIs are characterized by prolonged unconsciousness or amnesia, leading to substantial and often permanent changes in cognitive, physical, and emotional functioning.

Cognitive Impairments

Significant memory loss can cause difficulty remembering important information, such as personal details or events.

Individuals may have trouble forming new memories or experience gaps in memory. Severe attention and concentration issues can make it hard to focus on tasks or maintain attention for extended periods, complicating daily activities.

Executive function impairments, such as challenges with planning, organizing, and decision-making, can make it difficult to complete tasks that require multiple steps or complex instructions.

Emotional and Behavioral Changes

Sudden and intense emotional changes, such as severe mood swings, can occur without a clear trigger. Persistent and overwhelming feelings of worry or despair, potentially leading to suicidal thoughts, are common.

Noticeable changes in behavior or personality, such as increased aggression, impulsivity, or social withdrawal, can strain relationships and daily interactions.

Physical Symptoms

Frequent and severe headaches can be debilitating and affect daily functioning. Chronic dizziness and balance problems increase the risk of falls and injuries. Constant and extreme tiredness that doesn’t improve with rest, known as severe fatigue, can significantly impact daily life.

Visual disturbances, such as blurred or double vision, difficulty focusing, or increased sensitivity to light, are also common.

Neurological Symptoms

The occurrence of seizures is more common in severe cases of TBI. Severe sleep disturbances can cause difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or experiencing restful sleep, leading to chronic fatigue.

How are Traumatic Brain Injuries diagnosed?

If you have a mild TBI, your healthcare provider will examine you and ask about your symptoms. They’ll also want to learn more about what caused the injury. They may recommend the following tests:

  • Neurological evaluation
  • Imaging tests: A CT scan or MRI checks for brain bleeding and swelling
  • Blood tests.

If you have a moderate or severe traumatic brain injury, your provider likely will do blood tests and a CT scan so they can decide on immediate medical treatment.

How we can help

At Blake Psychology, our neuropsychologist will conduct a thorough assessment to understand the extent and nature of your symptoms.

This initial evaluation aims to validate your condition, clarify the etiology (cause) of your symptoms, and prioritize therapeutic targets.

By consulting with Blake Psychology, you can gain a clearer understanding of your condition and receive the support needed to manage and recover from TBI effectively.

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