What's It Like Living With TBI?

living with tbi

What’s It Like Living With TBI?

According to the Brain Injury Association of America, brain injuries are the leading cause of death and disability in the United States. About 2.8 million Americans suffer from a traumatic brain injury every year. Around 280,000 of these injuries result in hospitalizations, and 50,000 are fatal.

More than 5.3 million individuals live with a permanent brain injury related-disability, about 1 in every 60 people. High-risk/ high-speed activities were the major contributing factors to the number of head injuries treated in the United States.

Traumatic brain injuries can affect people of all ages. However, children and the elderly are the most vulnerable. The effects of brain injuries on these age groups may be more severe due to their age and developmental stage. About 283,000 children have made emergency department visits due to sports injuries.

Unlike most injuries, the symptoms of a traumatic brain injury may not simply heal over time. Many individuals who sustain a moderate to severe brain injury never make a full recovery.

These symptoms may hinder people with brain injuries from returning to their normal daily life. Some patients may be required to alter their lifestyle or daily living activities to accommodate their TBI symptoms.

Cognitive and Psychological Effects

Cognitive abilities are the skills we use to think, remember and understand information. This includes our ability to pay attention, communicate, solve problems, make decisions and control our emotions and impulses.

The cognitive outcome after sustaining a TBI will depend on factors such as the region of the brain the injury affected, and the severity of the injury. These factors will affect the degree to which a brain injury survivor will have cognitive difficulties.

Cognitive deficits are most severe in the early stages of a brain injury but usually improve over time. Neuropsychological testing can identify which areas of cognition are strengths and weaknesses and how these difficulties may affect school or work performance. Testing can also be used to track cognitive changes over time.

Some common cognitive problems that can occur after a traumatic brain injury include difficulties with:

Difficulties with memory and learning

Individuals that are living with TBI may have difficulty forming new memories or recalling events that happened before the injury. Over time, they may be able to remember events from long ago, but they may have trouble recalling entire conversations or events. The mind may try to fill in missing information with false memories.

Problems with attention and concentration

An injured person may have trouble concentrating, focusing, and engaging in tasks that require multitasking. Difficulty concentrating may lead to symptoms such as restlessness and easy distractibility, or the person may have difficulty completing projects or tasks.

Problems with attention and concentration may be improved by using techniques such as reducing distractions and focusing on one task at a time; practicing attention skills on simple, yet practical activities.

Feeling confused or mental “fogginess”

Following a brain injury, an individual may have difficulty processing and understanding information. This can result in taking longer to understand what others are saying, follow directions, or comprehend written materials such as books, articles, or movies.

An individual with TBI may also have delays in reaction time, which can impact their ability to complete routine tasks or daily activities safely. For example, driving may become unsafe if the person cannot react quickly enough to warning signs. Individuals with TBI should not drive until their visual skills and reaction time have been assessed by a specialist.

Communication problems

Communication difficulties are common after suffering a traumatic brain injury. This can manifest as trouble finding the right words to say, following conversations, or understanding what others say. In some cases, language skills such as the ability to express thoughts coherently may be impaired.

A TBI patient may have trouble with emotional expression and communicating their thoughts and feelings through using facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language. Those suffering from a TBI may have difficulty reading other people’s emotions and may not be able to respond appropriately to another person’s feelings or social situation.

Psychological effects

Damage to the regions of the brain that are in charge of emotional processing can cause emotional and behavioral difficulties. This makes it difficult for individuals living with a brain injury to process and cope with issues. In addition, pre-existing emotional or mental health difficulties may be exacerbated by a traumatic brain injury.

Depression is very common among those who live with a traumatic brain injury. Some studies show that nearly half of all individuals with a TBI are affected by depression in the first year of the injury.

Living With Someone With TBI

No traumatic brain injury patient is the same. The degree of their TBI may also vary. In a hospital or outpatient setting, the quality of care is often the same for all patients. However, it’s crucial to support the individual needs of a patient in order to optimize their quality of life and success. This way, a healthcare professional can create a customized care plan that takes the patient’s unique challenges into account.

TBIs often result in the need for long-term care. With hospital beds being scarce and private facilities charging high rates, it is necessary to formulate a long-term plan that works with the patient’s budget and needs. 

TBI treatment may require extensive therapy and even re-integration into the community, but this can all be done gradually and on the patient’s timeline without feeling rushed from a hospital setting.

A safe and comfortable environment is a crucial component of recovery as it provides visual and emotional cues. Ultimately, humans feel more comfortable when they are in a familiar setting. This means that patients are often more willing to cooperate with ongoing therapy and other treatments when they are allowed to stay at home rather than in a clinical setting.

Constant care is a must for individuals with brain injuries, so home care is the best option for them. This way, care recipients can receive the attention and assistance they need all in one place.

Nursing facilities may be suitable for elderly TBI patients, but most sufferers are younger adults or children. So for many people living with TBI, it is essential that they are in a setting where they can receive specialized rehabilitation for their medical condition.

How Are Relationships Affected?

Family members play an active role in a TBI patient’s recovery process. After a head injury, both survivors and their spouses or partners must often change many parts of their lives. This typically affects intimate relationships in the following ways:

  • There may be changes in responsibilities
  • Family roles may change
  • Communication may become more challenging

Patients often develop new personality traits, challenges, fears, and limitations which can change their relationships. These changes can be difficult for spouses who may feel like they are “married to a stranger”. Shifts in human behavior can also heavily impact relationship roles, family dynamics, and other diverse aspects of life.

A TBI can cause big changes in an injured person’s life and it can be tough for couples to adjust to those changes. Each person has to learn how to cope in their new role, which can lead to frustration and arguments that eventually affect daily living activities.

How To Manage Daily

It is beneficial for people with TBIs to return to their normal activities as soon as possible, with the necessary accommodations in place. Having a daily schedule can help with a person’s working memory and return to a routine. TBIs can cause an increased response to stimuli and difficulty focusing. It is important to avoid distractions and manage your expectations during recovery. Healing from a traumatic brain injury takes time and can be a lifelong process.

Mental Health

As previously mentioned, mental health conditions are common after a TBI. Some of the most common mental issues associated with TBIs are anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and anger issues.

If you are struggling with your mental health after a TBI, a psychologist or therapist can help you work through any cognitive and behavioral difficulties you may be having, even managing intimate relationships. It is helpful to find a mental health professional who has experience with traumatic brain injuries.


Depending on the severity of your injuries and the manner the injury occurred, you may require several doctors to oversee your recovery. Rehabilitation inpatients may require the following doctors:


The primary doctor in your care team will be a neurologist. They are in charge of ordering and analyzing your magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) results and will decide the following steps to take for your healthcare plan.

Brain damage can cause a variety of problems. Your neurologist will be able to detect any deficits in your medical condition. They will then refer you to the appropriate specialists who can help address these issues.

Physical Therapist

A TBI can disrupt the communication between the brain and the body, resulting in problems with movement. Physical therapy can help people who have sustained a TBI relearn how to move and regain their balance. Some patients with severe injuries may have to undergo hours of therapy to overcome mental health issues, relearn daily activities, and begin community reintegration.

Speech-Language Pathologist

Speech therapists are medical professionals who help patients with cognitive function, communication, and swallowing. Speech therapy may also help patients who have difficulty speaking due to aphasia. Aphasia is a common deficit in TBI sufferers. These types of speech therapy will help you find alternative means of communicating your thoughts as new approaches to rehabilitation.

Occupational Therapist

An occupational therapist can help you with many different things related to your daily life and routine. This can include helping you manage your finances, creating schedules, regaining hand dexterity, practicing cooking, and other mundane types of activities.

Participation in therapies will help make a reasonable improvement in the patient’s likelihood of making an excellent recovery.


There are several different types of medications used to help treat a traumatic brain injury, both in the immediate outcome and in the long term. These can help with any physical, psychological, or neurological problems that may arise from the TBI.

Services to People Living With Brain Injury

If you or a loved one has suffered a traumatic brain injury, you are most likely facing a number of difficult challenges. Not only do these injuries have physical and emotional consequences, but they can also greatly impact your quality of life. That is why it is so important to seek the help that you need as soon as possible.

The California Brain Injury Help Center specializes in providing support, information, and assistance to individuals with TBIs and their loved ones. Whether you are struggling with behavioral or mental health issues after an accident or dealing with complex legal issues related to insurance claims or personal injury lawsuits, our team has the resources and expertise needed to help.

So don’t hesitate. Contact us today. We will work closely with you to get the care and support that you deserve.

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