Personality Changes After Brain Trauma

Personality Changes After Brain Trauma

(*Please note that this article contains links to an article and podcast that may trigger some readers)

If you or someone you know has experienced a concussion, you are likely familiar with the common symptoms that can occur from a minor head injury. Short term effects include headaches, temporary loss of consciousness, dizziness, ringing in the ears, nausea, fatigue, blurred vision and sensitivity to light and sound. These symptoms can last anywhere from a few hours to several days.

Experiencing a more severe brain injury can cause serious long-term effects. These may start to develop up to a few days following the occurrence. Symptoms include trouble concentrating, memory problems, sleep disturbances, irritability, depression, psychological problems and personality changes. Long-term effects are rare, with approximately 20 percent of people suffering from post-concussion syndrome, where they continue to experience symptoms after six weeks. This is more common for those who have suffered from multiple concussions.

Changes to the personality can be the hardest to come to terms with and adjust to, both personally and for loved ones. Damage to specific areas of the brain, including the frontal and temporal lobes, amygdala, and hippocampus may cause an individual to be more vulnerable to agitation, volatile emotions, memory impairment, verbal attacks, physical aggression, and impaired impulse control.

Psychology Today took a look at this issue by interviewing a woman whose husband experienced personality shifting due to brain trauma. He had suffered damage to specific areas of his brain that meant that his executive functions were impaired. These refer to the complex group of skills used to plan, make decisions, solve problems, self-monitor, make judgments, and get along with others. Prior to his injury, he was known to be an incredibly calm individual. Afterwards, it became common for him to have outbursts of anger. Together, they faced the difficult task of finding coping mechanisms to work through this.

Legally, the notion of personality changes following brain trauma can call into question whether or not a person is at fault for a crime. In 2013, the podcast “Radiolab” released one of its most popular episodes, which followed the trial of a man found guilty for possession of child pornography. In his hearing, his lawyer aimed to prove that a surgery he had gone through to remove part of his brain to help with epilepsy had left him changed forever. As one article commented,“The more we know about the brain, the more frequently people like Kevin will argue that they had zero control over their criminal actions. An entire field called neurolaw has cropped up to deal with how the law should treat criminals with neurological conditions.”

While every situation is unique, medical professionals offer useful suggestions to help with long-term symptoms. Having a set daily routine is an important way to keep the logistics of daily life manageable. It is also extremely important to reduce stress and to break down large tasks into smaller pieces that can be accomplished in bits. Finding ways to relieve bodily tension and techniques to maintain positivity are imperative. Of course, the most important thing is to work with your medical professional to find the right set of tools, strategies, medications, and therapies that work for you.

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