The Psychological effects of brain injuries
In recent years, medical experts have more firmly established the link between the onset of a traumatic brain injury, and psychological and emotional illness such as depression. In any case of brain injury, naturally the patient’s thoughts, feelings and interactions will be affected by their condition; whether the direct result of brain damage or simply the shock of going through such an ordeal. Although the psychosomatic symptoms reported in studies are not as concrete as, for example, the results of an X-ray, the effects of TBI on patients’ mood and cognitive well-being can be established through behavioural observations and through communicating with the patient.
The Psychiatric Times reported on the connection between the incidence of mood and behavioural disorders as experienced by patients recovering from a traumatic brain injury. One series of tests found that most have battled against major depressive disorder, with behavioural disorders observed as much as eight years after a traumatic brain injury. Another study involving road traffic accident crash victims found that, in the future, those whose brains were affected were more likely to suffer from mood disorders such as depression than those who were not.
While cognitive functions like memory and problem-solving can be effectively re-taught to patients, other symptoms such as depression and anxiety are much harder to diagnose and treat given their more abstract nature.
In the case of traumatic brain injury, the emotional and psychological well-being of a patient is often placed lower on the list of priority than ensuring the survival of the patient in both the short and long term – but at any point during the rehabilitation process it can be exceedingly difficult to know how the patient is progressing ‘in themselves’. Whether it’s frustration at the slow speed they are progressing on the admittedly intensive road to recovery, or simply emotions they may feel about the circumstances of the accident, anything which impedes their moods could also be put down to psychosomatic symptoms.
An Australian study illustrated the psychological deficits experienced by a group of patients who had suffered acquired brain injuries by examining their self-awareness and psychosocial behaviours as reported by their loved ones – who will have witnessed first-hand the changes in the patients’ behaviour. It turns out that, once taken ill, the patients took different attitudes to themselves and others than they had previously; indicative of psychological change. A mix of cognitive-behavioural therapy and social skills training appeared to show positive results in the patients – suggesting that a course of therapy can prove useful in the recovery from acquired brain injury despite its tricky diagnosis.
Alongside these key cases, other vital research is constantly uncovering the facts behind the psychological effects of brain injury – whether acquired by illness or caused in the event of a serious accident. It’s hoped that medical advances will soon be able to diagnose the defects that – while less important in the short-term survival of brain injury – will help the recovery of patients in all aspects of their daily life.