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Traumatic Brain Injury - TBI and PTSD

Many traumatic brain injury survivors suffer not only from the effects of the brain injury but also suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms. Therefore, the trauma that causes the TBI also causes PTSD.

Early on it was believed that trauma causing traumatic brain injury could not also cause post-traumatic stress disorder as it was believed that the types of amnesia that the traumatic brain injury can cause would preclude suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Studies now show that post-traumatic stress disorder can develop following mild traumatic brain injury and also following severe traumatic brain injury.

TBI symptoms:

• Headache

• Nausea

• Fatigue

• Difficulty sleeping

• Dizziness

• Sensory problems such as blurred vision, ringing in ears, sensitivity to light or sound

• Memory or concentration problems

• Mood swings

• Depression or anxiety

PTSD symptoms:

• Repeated memories of the life threatening event

• Flashbacks and reliving the event

• Avoidance of people or places that are reminders of the event

• Detachment from people

• Shame about what happened

• Survivor guilt

• Hypervigilance

Symptoms and differences:

• Memory

 o TBI - Interruption in memory of what went on just before or just after the injury; problems with memory thereafter including problems with concentration and cognitive difficulties

 o PTSD - Being plagued and haunted by unwanted memories of what happened, causing the victim to relive the injury including having nightmares about it.

• Sleep

 o TBI - Sleep disorders are common after TBI including difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep and interrupting normal sleep patterns.

 o PTSD - Terrible nightmares and flashbacks while sleeping causing the victim to wake up.

• Isolation

 o TBI - Due to the injury, loss of friends and co-workers leading to social isolation.

 o PTSD - Isolation is self imposed by the victim as it is too difficult to interact with people.

• Emotions

 o TBI - Emotional lability, mood swings

 o PTSD - Emotional numbness and emotional shutdown

• Fatigue

 o TBI - Continuing fatigue due to the TBI

 o PTSD - The symptoms of PTSD make it difficult to get a full night sleep resulting in fatigue, feeling wrung out, temper shortened, frustration.

• Depression and Anxiety

 o TBI - Depression and anxiety can result from TBI.

 o PTSD - Depression can result from PTSD however anxiety is much more severe and can cause feelings of extreme panic and stress.

• Anger

 o TBI - Damage to the frontal lobes of the brain can cause volatile behavior.

 o PTSD - Physical aggression is increased with PTSD.

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