After a loved one suffers a brain injury, it’s not uncommon for friends and family to notice what seems like a personality change. This change can range from a mild or occasional bursts of aggression to long term, serious mood changes. In some cases they come and go, leaving the brain injury patient feeling as if they have two different people inside of them—or as if they have no control over themselves.
This apparent change in personality is one of the most disconcerting and painful aspects of a brain injury. But in most cases it is not a true personality change. Instead it is the net effect of stress, confusion and brain damage, which comes across as sudden changes in behavior. The person living with the brain injury may feel as if they are still the same on the inside, but their behavior is different outside.
These types of changes happen for five reasons:
- Damage to key areas that regulate emotional function. Different brain injuries cause damage to different brain areas, and some specific areas control or contribute to emotional function. If the frontal or temporal lobes, amygdala, or hippocampus are damaged, it may cause emotional volatility, increased aggression, agitation, sudden verbal outbursts, verbal or physical attacks, and loss of impulse control. This is the cause of the most dramatic changes in personality, which may come and go without warning.
- Stress and physical pain. Everyone, with or without a brain injury, is more likely to get frustrated, agitated or aggressive when they experience stress or pain. And there are few things more stressful than the sense of loss and day to day impairment that comes with serious brain injuries. Additionally, stress itself is one of the triggers for the personality changes listed above.
- Loss of executive functions. Some brain injuries, especially those to the front of the brain, damage what are known as “executive functions”: a person’s ability to sort information, make decisions, make plans, and control themselves. This can leave people feeling like they have no control in their life, which can lead to anger. More dangerously, impairment of executive functions can lead a person to ignore safety rules, take reckless risks, or ignore social conventions—because they can no longer see the reason behind these rules.
- Memory loss and confusion. Many traumatic brain injuries are accompanied by some form of memory loss. While most retrograde amnesia goes away with time, brain injury patients may continue to have memory “blackouts” during stressful times. Many will also experience confusion on a day to day basis. Both of these lead to increased frustration.
- Depression, anxiety and new habits. Like anyone else living with a life-changing injury, brain injury patients are prone to depression or anxiety. Serious depression itself is a change in personality. To complicate matters, brain injury can contribute to addiction/substance abuse issues, as drugs or alcohol may seem like a way to temporarily relieve the pain. These substances themselves then further contribute to an apparent change in personality.
If you or a loved one are living with a brain injury, remember that you may be entitled to compensation. This compensation can help pay for treatments that help you minimize or manage effects on your personality. To find out if you have a case for compensation, call the Ernst Law Group and get a free consultation today.