Brain injury can make a person prone to
epileptic seizures or ‘fits’. Many people who
have had a seizure after a Brain Injury are given
a drug for a number of years to reduce the
chance of it recurring. The drug may have an
overall ‘dampening’ effect on the person’s level
of arousal, and therefore on the performance
of everyday tasks. Remember the added effect
that this could have if the person already has
excessive fatigue. It is important to remember
that a person who suffers from seizures may
not be allowed to drive and should contact the
relevant authorities for advice.
Limbs may be stiff or weak, and the range of
movement limited. Often one side of the body
is affected more than the other, depending on
the area of brain that is damaged. This is known
as hemiplegia. Spasticity may cause pain or
discomfort. If this occurs it is advisable to seek
help from a GP, who may be able to prescribe
drugs to reduce muscle spasms.
Weakness or paralysis often affects one side
of the body more than the other. This could
mean that help is needed during personal
care and when getting dressed or undressed.
Muscle weakness may affect continence, and
continence aids may be needed.
This is irregular, uncontrolled movement
or tremor affecting the co-ordination of
movements. The person’s hands may be shaky
or clumsy, and handwriting may be difficult or
Brain injury may cause damage to the
hypothalamus and/or pituitary gland, which
are small structures at the base of the brain
responsible for regulating the body’s hormones.
Damage to these areas can lead to insufficient
or increased release of one or more hormones,
which causes disruption of the body’s ability
to maintain a stable internal environment
(homeostasis). If damage to the pituitary gland
leads to a reduction in hormone production the
resulting condition is known as hypopituitarism.
Another hormonal condition which can be
caused by Brain Injury is neurogenic diabetes
insipidus, which is usually a short-term
problem in the acute stage after injury but can
occasionally persist in the long-term.
Problems with memory, particularly shortterm
memory, are common after Brain Injury.
Some people may be unable to remember faces
or names, or what they have read or what
has been said to them. New learning may be
affected, whilst previously learned skills may
still be intact.
Reduced initiation and problems with
motivation. Problems with getting started on
tasks are common, and can often be mistaken
for laziness. These problems may also be a
symptom of depression.
Reduced concentration span
This is very common and can also impact on
memory problems. Completing tasks can be a
problem and the task may be abandoned before
reaching the end. The person may initially
appear eager to start a task, but then lose
interest very quickly.
Slower information processing
People can take longer to think things
through or work out what has been said to
them. ‘Information overload’ can be quickly
reached, and can cause frustration and anger.
Reduced problem-solving ability
It may be difficult for the person to work
out what to do if they encounter an unexpected
Repetition or ‘perseveration’
The person may be unable to move on to
another topic in the same conversation, and
they may return to the same topic over and over
again. They may also repeat the same action,
appearing unable to break the cycle.
Reasoning, judgement & insight
Impaired reasoning may affect a person’s
ability to think logically, to understand
rules, or follow discussions. The person may
easily become argumentative due to lack of
Impaired judgement can cause difficulties
in accurately perceiving and interpreting one’s
own and other people’s behaviour and feelings.
Putting oneself ‘in someone else’s shoes’ can be
Lack of insight means the person may have
an unrealistic view of themselves and others,
and may not appreciate that they have certain
problems. This may lead to unattainable goals
being set, which then leads to failure and
Language loss (aphasia)
This may be ‘receptive’ (difficulty making
sense of what is said or read) or ‘expressive’
(difficulty finding the right words to say or
write), or both. This can be very frustrating
for the person and for others, and patience is
needed on both sides.
Remember – just because a person cannot
express themselves, does not mean they do not
need or want to be heard.
Impaired visual-perceptual skills
The person may have difficulty making
sense out of ordinary pictures and shapes,
finding the way around a building, or drawing
or constructing objects. These problems can
be particularly frustrating for a person who is
quite competent in their language and social
skills. Occasionally, people may fail to respond
to stimuli coming from one side of their visual
field, or may ignore a particular side of their
body, for example when shaving or dressing.
This condition is known as visual neglect.
EMOTIONAL & BEHAVIOURAL EFFECTS
Loss of confidence
This is very common after Brain Injury and
a person can need a lot of encouragement and
Mood swings or ‘emotional lability’
The person may have a tendency to laugh or
cry very easily, and to move from one emotional
state to another quite suddenly.
Depression and sense of loss are common.
Depression may be caused by injury to the areas
of the brain that control emotion, but can also
be associated with the person gaining an insight
into the other effects of their injury. After Brain
Injury, many things that are precious to the
individual may be lost forever and there may
be much sadness, anger, guilt and confusion,
Anxiety & frustration
Anxiety can be another consequence of Brain
Injury. Life has been changed forever in a matter
of seconds, and the future can look frightening.
Anxiety can quickly lead to frustration and
anger and needs to be identified and alleviated
as early as possible.
Frustration can build up quickly, especially
when things that were once so easy are now
difficult or impossible. The resulting anger
may be very difficult for the person to control.
Abusive or obscene language may be used. This
may be spontaneous and uncontrollable, and
may be an outlet for the person’s anger and
frustration. This behaviour can obviously be
embarrassing and upsetting for those nearby.
There may be a loss of control over social
behaviour, so that the person may behave in
an over-familiar manner or may make sexual
advances with the wrong people at the wrong
time. They may also be unable to inhibit what
they are thinking and may make inappropriate
and offensive outbursts.
A person with a Brain Injury may tend to
speak or act without thinking things through
Obsessive behaviour can occur. For example,
a person may be afraid that their possessions
will be stolen, and may check their belongings
This article is reproduced from http://www.headway.org.uk with
the permission of Headway – the Brain Injury association.
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