How to Spot the Emotional Stages of Recovery from a TBI

We all have different family situations, different jobs, different strengths, and different weaknesses. Despite all these differences, there are a number of very common emotional stages that people with a head injury go through. This is based upon my own experience treating patients, but many investigators note similar findings. Here are a view stages to spot when a loved one is recovering/suffering from a TBI.

Tough Decisions Ahead Road Sign

Confusion and Agitation

This can last minutes or it can last for months. In the hospital setting, this is very difficult for family members. Someone who is very meek and mild, for example, can be physically aggressive. They may punch the nurses, or swear and curse at family members. It’s very frightening for family members, and it feels like it is going to last forever. It may take a while, but people eventually come out of it.

Denial

The patient says, “There’s nothing wrong with me.” For example, they’re in a motor vehicle accident, they’re briefly seen in an emergency room, and they go home. Suddenly, they’re having difficulties. They’re forgetting things or burning food. Family members may say, “you seem different.” But the head-injured person says “No, there’s nothing wrong with me.

Anger and Depression

Denial is a very common problem, but eventually it breaks down. Head injury problems just don’t go away. The same problems happen over and over and over again. This leads to the next phase, in which the person has a limited awareness of the head injury, beginning what I call the depression/anger phase. When you realize you are different and can’t do things like you used to, you may become angry or depressed.

 

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