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Traumatic brain injury (TBI) occurs because of sudden damage to the brain. The American Association of Neurological Surgery explains that TBI “is a disruption in the normal functioning of the brain that can be caused by a blow, bump or jolt to the head, the head suddenly and violently hitting an object or when an object pierces the skull and enters brain tissue.” The symptoms that present because of a TBI will vary significantly, as they depend on the type of injury, the severity of the injury, as well as the area of the brain that was injured. The symptoms of a TBI are often broadly categorized into four main categories that are each comprised of symptoms with similar characteristics, respectively. The four categories include: thinking and remembering (cognitive), physical (somatic), emotional and mood (affective), and sleep. TBI symptoms that fall under each category could include, but are not limited to the following examples:

  • Cognitive symptoms: the cognitive effects of a TBI can affect the way an individual learns, remembers, and thinks. Symptoms that fall under this category include:
    • Memory problems
    • Language loss (aphasia)
    • Impairments in visual-perceptual skills
    • Reduced initiative and problems with motivation
    • Reduced concentration span
    • Reduced information processing ability
    • Perseveration
    • Impaired reasoning
    • Profound confusion
  • Somatic symptoms: there is a wide range of physical effects that an individual could develop after sustaining a TBI:
    • Loss of consciousness from several minutes to hours
    • Persistent headache or headache that worsens
    • Repeated vomiting or nausea
    • Convulsions or seizures
    • Dilation of one or both pupils of the eyes
    • Clear fluids draining from the nose or ears
    • Weakness or numbness in fingers and toes
    • Loss of coordination
    • Slurred speech
    • Ringing in the ears
  • Affective symptoms: the behavioral and emotional effects of a TBI can affect the way an individual processes emotion and behaves:
    • Verbal outbursts
    • Physical outbursts
    • Poor judgment and disinhibition
    • Impulsive behavior
    • Negativity
    • Intolerance
    • Apathy
    • Egocentricity
    • Rigidity and inflexibility
    • Risky behavior
    • Lack of empathy
    • Lack of motivation or initiative
    • Depression or anxiety
  • Sleep symptoms: the development of sleep disorders, experiencing sleep disturbances, and unwanted symptoms related to sleep are common following a TBI: 

It is not uncommon for individuals who have sustained a TBI to experience one or more symptoms from one or more of the above categories.

For Information and Support 

If you are concerned for yourself or a loved one regarding substance abuse and/ or addiction, we recommend reaching out for help as soon as possible. If left untreated, substance abuse can result in long-lasting and potentially life-threatening consequences. Keep in mind: you are not alone! There is an entire network of professionals that are available to help and support you and your loved one throughout the recovery process. The earlier you seek support, the sooner your loved one can return to a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life.

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