Few things in life are as serious as head trauma. An act of violence, a lapse in judgment, a momentary weak point, or even a simple accident can cause lifelong harm. When someone suffers a traumatic brain injury (TBI), surviving is often just the first hurdle they’ll face. And when you consider the mental health and addiction issues that often develop, TBI sufferers have a tough road ahead.

At Transformations Treatment Center, we understand the difficulties that a serious brain injury can create in a person’s life. While it’s imperative to seek proper treatment for the physical harm caused by traumatic brain injuries, it’s important to not overlook the psychological causes and effects of TBI. Contact us today to learn how our Master’s Level clinicians can help.

What Are Traumatic Brain Injuries?

A traumatic brain injury is a form of acquired brain injury caused by sudden damage to the brain. A bump, jolt, or blow to the head can cause a TBI, but penetrating injuries (e.g., stab or gunshot wounds) also fall into this category. This damage has three recognized types: mild (e.g., concussion), moderate, and severe. 

A person could suffer mild traumatic brain injuries and live out their life with no ill effects. This isn’t always the case, though, and more severe damage can even lead to death. Recent data shows a yearly death toll that hovers around 60,000 due to TBIs. Symptoms associated with this condition may last a few days after minor accidents, but more serious injuries can lead to lifelong problems.

The following are the most common causes of traumatic brain injury in America:

  • Falls
  • Firearm injuries
  • Assault
  • Motor vehicle collisions
  • Sports injuries

While these represent the injuries doctors see most, they’re far from the only causes of TBI. For instance, development of the condition in children under the age of four most frequently results from abuse. Such an injury at this early of an age can hinder brain development even when it’s minor. Children who experience TBI also typically have to avoid certain physical activities.

For those who suffer mild traumatic brain injuries, the road to recovery isn’t usually a hard one. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case when damage occurs repeatedly over the years. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) can develop when a person suffers multiple blows to the head. The brain actually deteriorates and loses mass when this condition forms.

Recognizing the symptoms of TBI is essential for minimizing damage. Keep an eye out for the following signs:

  • Brief loss of consciousness
  • Confusion
  • Headache
  • Bad taste in the mouth
  • Lethargy or fatigue
  • Disturbed sleep patterns
  • Mood and behavioral changes
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or paying attention
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Dizziness

While these are common for mild traumatic brain injuries, severe TBI may present with the same symptoms. This is why you should visit a medical professional immediately if you’ve sustained a blow to the head and experience any of these. Doctors typically need to perform imaging tests or a neurologic exam to verify a TBI.

Seizures, persistent headaches, difficulty waking, dilated pupils and numbness, or weakness in the arms and legs are sure signs of a significant trauma. If you experience these red flags, seek treatment immediately.

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Risk Factors for Traumatic Brain Injuries

Brain trauma can happen to anyone at any time. Almost half of these injuries come from falls, for instance, and this number increases significantly for individuals over the age of 65. While traumatic brain injuries could affect anyone, though, research suggests that certain populations are at an increased risk. In many of these groups, it’s easy to understand why their exposure to TBI is higher.

  • Veterans and service members
  • Homeless individuals
  • Ethnic and racial minorities
  • Inmates in correctional and detention facilities
  • Individuals living in rural areas
  • Survivors of intimate partner violence

Unfortunately, many of these populations face an increased risk of traumatic brain injuries due to heightened exposure to violence. Members of the armed forces are expected to put themselves in danger, for instance, and minority stress is one of the many outcomes of facing an elevated risk of violence as a person outside the majority. This increased risk certainly isn’t fair, but it’s reality.

Of course, not all traumatic brain injuries stem from acts of violence. There are between 1.6 and 3.8 million concussions suffered yearly due to sports and recreational activities. The primary lesson to take from this is that the underlying cause or risk factor of TBIs isn’t what’s important. What’s important is how we respond after the fact.

If you think you or a loved one needs help after incurring a TBI, make sure you’re handling the situation correctly. Contact us today at Transformations Treatment Center.

Traumatic Brain Injuries and Mental Health

Serious damage to the brain can cause significant physical problems. Decreased motor skills, vision problems, difficulty walking and talking, uncontrolled movements, and even paralysis are potential outcomes. A person’s primary healthcare provider will strive to minimize or correct these issues. Unfortunately, the mental health aspects of traumatic brain injuries often go overlooked.

We’re learning more about TBIs and their psychological effects every day, but there’s already a wealth of evidence pointing toward certain outcomes. The worst part is that these injuries do not have to be severe to cause serious issues. Up to 20% of those who suffer mild TBI have mental health symptoms for up to six months.

Risk of developing the following disorders increases significantly after a traumatic brain injury:

The scariest part is just how significant some of these increases proved to be. After suffering a TBI, for instance, a person is 65% more likely to develop schizophrenia. Depression is 59% more likely and bipolar disorder is 28% more likely to develop. Unfortunately, having prior mental health issues also increases the risk of these problems developing.

The studies that discovered these connections also reached another finding: most people who developed these conditions suffered mild traumatic brain injuries. These weren’t professional boxers or war veterans who experienced depression, PTSD, and other major mental health conditions. Most were just people who visited the emergency room then rested at home after a car crash.

Unfortunately, many individuals who live through these injuries do not complete recommended follow-up care. This can increase the risk of negative outcomes.

Suicidality and Traumatic Brain Injuries

While any mental health condition following a TBI is cause for worry, researchers have identified suicidal ideation as a significant concern. In fact, they discovered that a single concussion is enough to increase a person’s risk of suicide by three times. This number went up even more when the injury in question was moderate or severe.

Unfortunately, the people going through this may not always realize that anything has changed. This type of damage fundamentally alters how the brain works. This means someone may never recognize the significant differences in their behaviors or mood until it’s too late. For this reason, it’s important to get ready for a frank discussion if you think your loved one is suicidal.

Unfortunately, prior suicide attempts are also a significant contributor to traumatic brain injuries. People who survive suicide attempts often suffer brain injuries during their actions. This means even suicidality can have an interrelated connection. This is a scary fact, but recognizing the issue can help you better recognize when it’s time to seek help.

Traumatic Brain Injuries and Drug Abuse

Like mental health disorders and suicidal ideation, research has also shown a connection between brain injuries and substance abuse disorder. While the exact physiological or psychological mechanism is unknown, those who experience a TBI between the ages of 16 and 25 have a higher risk of drug and alcohol abuse later in life. The same is true if an injury occurs before the age of 5.

Studies have also shown that these addictive behaviors can be a cause of traumatic brain injuries. Drugs and alcohol affect a person’s decision-making capacity and their ability to maintain balance, and they often result in reckless or aggressive behaviors. Each of these can lead to situations where TBI is likely or re-injuries can occur. Substance abuse after a brain injury can also create the following dangers:

  • Dangerous interactions with prescription medications can occur.
  • Alcohol and drugs can increase seizure risk after a brain injury.
  • Intoxication effects are often amplified in those with brain injuries.

Unfortunately, even individuals who don’t want to use drugs face difficulties thanks to TBI. Research has found that those in recovery experience an increased risk of relapse following traumatic brain injuries. And among people with no prior addiction problems, up to 20% may develop a substance abuse disorder.

There’s also evidence of a “honeymoon period” following incidents that cause damage to the brain. This is a length of time following an injury where a person ceases drug and alcohol use. They often recognize that their use is what led to the condition in the first place, or they may just realize that engaging in this behavior could hinder their physical recovery.

Unfortunately, this is often short-lived. After some time has passed, a person may feel it’s “safe” to go back to their previous behavior. This is rarely the case — especially considering the increased risk they now face.

Don’t Let a Traumatic Brain Injury Destroy Your Life

Surviving head trauma is a feat on its own, but that’s not where the battle ends. The effects of traumatic brain injuries can follow someone their entire life, and unfortunately, they can create dangerous situations for the injured person and their family. If you’ve noticed changes in yourself or in a loved one’s behavior following a TBI, the time to reach out for help is now.

At Transformations Treatment Center, we believe that it’s vital to take a holistic approach to health. Healthcare professionals can help minimize the underlying physical damage of a TBI, but if your mental health afterward isn’t cared for, it’s impossible to ever live a fully healthy and happy life. Contact us today if you’re ready to stop letting a traumatic brain injury control your life.