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Personality Changes After a Brain Injury or Concussion
Ashley van Biljon

By: Ashley van Biljon on December 15th, 2018

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Personality Changes After a Brain Injury or Concussion

Education & Resources  |  Brain Injury Awareness  |  Mental Health Support After a Brain Injury

Did you know personality changes are not uncommon following a traumatic brain injury? After all, how we think and process the world is so much of who we are. Our temperament is virtually the way our brain explains the world around us. With a brain injury, the way we process and understand information will be disrupted. So we should not be surprised that our personality can change after a concussion.

Personality changes can originate from two sources following a brain injury:

  1. Specific changes in how the brain experiences, understands and expresses emotions. Making it hard to understand our feelings, or process them fully. 
  2. Emotional reactions are a natural response to the changes in your life brought on by a brain injury.

Emotional reactions are a natural response to the changes in your life brought on by a brain injury.

Brain injuries can damage connections that go from the cerebral cortex (the part of the brain that has a role in memory, attention, perception, cognition, and awareness.) to the limbic system (the part of the brain that supports functions like emotions, behavior, and motivation). These connections allow us to evaluate our emotional reactions, understand how important events are, and decide on a response that meets the demand of the situation. When these connections are injured, the emotional response differs from what it was before the injury, and are not always in sync with the current situation. 

These changes make it challenging, not only for those who are injured but can also for those who love and care about the person who is injured. It is never easy to watch as someone you love and care about go through something difficult, and personality changes after a brain injury are changes that occur without warning and can be beyond our control.  

Psychiatric Obstacles After a Brain Injury

A brain injury is emotionally traumatic. People can respond with frustration, anger, anxiety, and depression to their changed capabilities and life circumstances. It is normal to mourn the life you once had and to try to find ways to cope with a new way of life and personality. These responses are affected by the impaired connections described earlier and can result in extreme emotional reactions.

Many times because the brain is also staying in fight or flight mode, it is hard to help your mind and body to relax, because your brain is trying to help you survive this injury and what has happened. This response is how the brain reacts even for even “mild” TBI or concussion. Any injury to the brain while it may not look severe on the outside, it should be taken seriously. Any damage or injury to the brain can impact your life in significant ways, especially your personality, and the way you process emotions. 

What To Do With These Emotions

Recognize the Emotion: There are many injury-related reasons for a person who has a brain injury to have problems managing emotions like frustration, anxiety, and anger. There are plenty of understandable emotional responses to all of the changes, and challenges that come with recovering from brain injury.

It is also vital for the family and caregiver’s to understand that the emotional response serves a purpose for the person experiencing strong emotions, even if he/she can't tell you the meaning.

Figure Out The Cause: Discover the trigger that happened just before the outburst. For example, becoming overstimulated by the noises and smells in a crowded grocery store. Understand the behavior in response to the trigger. When overstimulated, a person may shout and quickly exit the store, pushing aside anyone in the way.

Pick an Approach to Process The Emotions: Find a new process that better fits your needs. Try out new ways of communicating and sharing your emotions. Try new things to help you find new ways to express yourself.

Here are some of our ideas: 

  • Improve Communication with these new strategies.
  • Getting Exercise can also help your body to release frustration or anger.
  • Journaling can also help you put your feelings into thoughts and bring clarity to the emotions you are processing.

There is Hope 

We know it can be frustrating to recognize that you are not who you were before. We want you to know that there is hope. While going back to exactly who you were before may not happen, you can, however, make significant improvements in your recovery. Progress is possible even if other doctors have told you differently. You have already taken a new step in improving your quality of life by reading through this blog. 

We want you to know that your quality of life can improve after a traumatic brain injury, and it’s important to remember that your emotions are just that— emotions. You that are entitled to your emotions, acknowledge them, process them and let them go, in a way that works best for you. Many of our patients experience this adjustment in personality, and you are not alone.

At Cognitive FX, we want to help you understand what is going on in your head, both with your brain injury, and how to improve the regions that are injured to recover. Throughout EPIC Treatment, based on patient PCSS reports, our patients improved on average in the emotional category by 65%. Please do not lose hope, and please know that there are options available, and people who care about you and what you are experiencing.  You can learn more about treatment here, and our patient outcomes here