The symptoms of a Brain Injury
The symptoms displayed by an injured victim can vary greatly and depend upon the extent of the location and severity of the brain injury. Victims with brain injury can exhibit the following disabilities:
(1) Mental disability
The injured victim may experience short or long term memory loss, difficulties with concentration, thinking, attention, lack of communication, and slowness in planning and judgment, as explained below:
(a) Short or long term memory loss
There are a number of memory problems associated with brain injuries:
- Post-traumatic amnesia: This occurs to the injured victim immediately after the injury where the victim may be conscious but his/her everyday memory will not function properly. For example, the victim may not be able to recall what he/she had for breakfast or recall the day or time.
- Retrograde amnesia: This is experienced by the injured victim when he/she cannot remember personal information and events, from the time period immediately preceding the accident and the accident itself. For example, the victim may be unable to recall the scene of the accident.
- Short-term memory: This occurs when the injured victim has difficulty remembering new facts, names, faces and appointments, or what he/she has to do.
(b) Attention and concentration
Research has shown that an injured victim may have difficulty doing two or more things simultaneously, for example coping with a task such as watching the television and repeating a string of numbers at the same time.
(c) Information process difficulties
The victim’s mental efficiency slows down as the whole of the brain has been shaken up and therefore makes it difficult to handle new information for varying periods of time.
(d) Planning, organising and problem solving
The injured victim’s “executive skills”, such as thinking, planning and organizing, may be disrupted as a result of brain injuries. It is possible that the injured victim may not be aware of these types of problems. In particular, he/she may lack the ability to stand back and identify their own strengths and weakness. This failure to self-correct or change behaviour often leads to failure in the work environment.
(2) Physical disabilities:
The injured victim may incur hearing, smell and taste loss, headaches, dizziness, muscle spasticity, and/or lack of co-ordination.
(a) Loss of sensation
The injured victim may lose one or more of the senses, but the actual sense organs themselves, such as the eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin are not damaged. The damage is in the area of brain registering the smell or noise rather than the level of the sensory organ itself. Different parts of the brain deal with the sensations experienced in different parts of the body. Similarly, the injured victim can have visual problems such as judging distances and having blurred or double vision. For example, he/she may walk into doors, put on only one sock or even eat food off one side of the plate. Temperature control can also be adversely affected as the injured victim may feel very hot, or extremely cold.
(b)Tiredness / dizziness / loss of stamina and fatigue
Such symptoms are common because they affect everything that the injured victim does. Similar problems can be created if the injured victim denies that they are tired, because they may become moody, agitated or withdrawn.
Up to 25% of injured victims who have suffered a severe head injury may still suffer from headaches two years after the injury. These can be aggravated by stress or tension and therefore medication, muscle relaxation exercises or stress management programme can help.
(d) Speaking and swallowing disorders
The muscles in the mouth of the injured victim can be severely affected if damage has been caused to a cranial nerve. The muscles needed for articulation of speech become weak and uncoordinated. As a result, speech becomes slurred and slower, making it harder for others to understand. Injured victims may also experience difficulty chewing and swallowing which may result in malnutrition.
(e) Bladder and bowel incontinence
After a brain injury, a number of basic skills can be affected, such as bladder and bowel control. Such control is a skill and the injured victim needs to learn to become aware of the physical signs of the need to go to the toilet and then to control those signs.
(3) Psychological/Emotional disability
An injured victim may be left with some form of emotional and behavioural change after a brain injury. This is foreseeable as the brain is the seat and control centre of all emotions and behaviour. For example the changes that the injured victim may encounter could be identified in changes of personality such as anxiety, depression, mood-swings, irritability, inability to cope generally, agitation, isolation, and sexual dysfunction. The severity of these difficulties will vary and may be more obvious to others.
(a) Anger and irritability
This difficulty can be exacerbated by the enormous amount of stress and frustration that an injured victim has to endure as they realise the full extent of their losses. Minor irritations can trigger off the anger, such as forgetting a key or being kept waiting; it may not take a major crisis.
This type of behaviour is common in the early stages after a brain injury, and is unlikely to remain as a permanent behavioural change.
The injured victim may lose the ability to discriminate about when and how to express his feelings, such as joy or sadness.
The injured victim may become completely self-centred, displaying the behaviour of a child. This is partly due to a direct brain injury restricting the injured victim’s ability to be aware and insightful of his own and others’ behaviour, and the ability to be able to put himself in somebody else’s shoes.
(e) Apathy and poor motivation
Lack of motivation or spontaneity or apathy are a direct result of a brain injury to the frontal lobe structures that concern emotion, motivation and forward planning. Hence the person is unable to plan activities or work towards goals because of his injuries.
This emotional reaction normally occurs after formal rehabilitation is over, when the injured victim has gone home. For example realising that the activities, such as a sport, that were previously enjoyable are no longer available.
It is common for the injured victim who has been involved in a traumatic experience to feel anxious afterwards. This is even more so after a brain injury, as being inactive for a lengthy period when medically ill and finding that one cannot do as well as one could before the injury can produce a lot of anxiety and distress in the injured person.
(h) Inflexibility, rigidity and obsessionality
This type of behavior is rather like “tunnel vision”, when an injured victim becomes obsessed by a particular idea and therefore has difficulties in changing his thoughts. Thinking can become rigid or concrete.
(i) Sexual problems
The injured victim’s sexuality can either be increased or decreased as a result of physical damage or psychological reasons. There is a small nerve centre in the middle of the brain, called the hypothalamus, which regulates sex drive and the release of testosterone. If this is damaged, sexual appetite may either increase or decrease. Psychological factors creating sexual difficulties include the person feeling unattractive or feeling very tired.
If you have any of these symptoms as a result of an accident and are not sure where to seek help, please contact our Specialist Personal Injury Lawyers on 01908 692769.