Here follows a brief discussion of the four different ways in which a traumatic brain injury can affect a person. A brain injury survivor may be affected by only one of these and the consequences stemming from them, or by any number of them.
1. A TBI may affect a person cognitively
There is often no obvious physical sign that something is amiss when a traumatic brain injury affected a person’s intelligence.
A TBI and the consequential damage to the brain can take a huge bite out of a brain injured person’s IQ.
In doing so it greatly lessens rationality and logic which may cause unpredictable or aggressive behavior.
This is unfortunately the most common effect that a TBI has.
2. A TBI may affect a person emotionally
Some TBI survivors may suffer from a lack of impulse control (disinhibition).
Disinhibition is when a brain injury survivor may show a lack of restraint manifested in several ways. This includes a disregard for social conventions, impulsivity, extreme curiosity and poor risk assessment.
This often causes them to boldly say inappropriate things or make very rash, illogical decisions.
A traumatic brain injury often alters a person’s temperament and this causes personality changes which may lead to impulsive or erratic behavior.
They are mostly unaware of the fact that they are being irrational and will therefor refuse to listen to reason.
3. A TBI may affect a person’s senses
The damage a TBI causes to the brain can take away any of one’s five well-known senses: smell; taste; sight; hearing and the skin’s ability to distinguish between different textures and temperatures.
- After suffering a TBI some people cannot smell or taste anymore.
- Hearing may be impaired due to tinnitus. Tinnitus is a constant ringing in the ear(s) and might sound like white noise.
- Limited saliva may occur which makes it difficult to eat because saliva is vital to the digestive system. This is called xerostomia.
- The eyes may fail to produce tears which can cause Dry Eye Syndrome (DES), also known as xerophthalmia.
- The eyes may not be aligned properly with each other (strabismus) and this causes permanent double vision.
- Other brain injury survivors may struggle to differentiate between hot and cold temperatures or have considerable difficulty to differentiate between different textures due to hypersensitivity of the skin (the skin tends to overreact to external stimuli).
This is called neuropathy and its caused by damage to the person’s nervous system
According to Doctor Norman Doidge, the author of The Brain that Changes Itself, balance is easily overlooked as one of your most important senses.
It is actually quite obvious when you think about it. Your sense of smell. Your sense of hearing. Your sense of taste. Your sense of balance.
We have more than twenty senses, excluding the possible ability to see into the paranormal realm.
The rest of our senses are not as tangible as the distinguished five senses school tends to focus on (smell; sight; hearing; touch; taste). They are much more centered on your emotions, logic and integrity, for example, your sense of justice; your sense of pride; your sense of respect etc.
Without your sense of balance, you would not be able to walk or even sit upright.
Due to significant damage to the cerebellum, one’s ability to balance can be affected in a variety of degrees. (The cerebellum is the area of the hindbrain that controls coordination, balance, muscle tone and equilibrium.)
A brain injured person may struggle to walk with swift, flowing movements (called Ataxia) mainly because of hemiplegia.
4. A TBI can affect a person physically
Often a person will struggle with their coordination and with their finer motor skills after suffering a traumatic brain injury. This can be restored completely or to some degree with intensive physiotherapy and occupational therapy.
The most prominent way in which a TBI may affect a person physically is by causing hemiplegia.
Hemiplegia is when there is a loss of voluntary movement on one side of a person’s body. It usually affects the face; arm; trunk and leg of the same side (hemisphere) of the body.
Weakness or some degree of paralysis may occur on the opposite side of the body where the injury to the brain took place.
If the injury, and the subsequent damage, occurred on the right-side of the brain, the left-side of the body (the left arm, leg and trunk as well as the left side of the face) may experience complete paralysis or some weakness, and vice versa.
If complete paralysis occur, there is the potential that some movement may be restored with intensive rehab. Complete recovery is seldom possible and some weakness and lack of coordination will remain.
Often some movement and strength will return to the affected leg but not the arm.