Prevalence of psychiatric sequelae of acquired brain injuries (ABI) are high.
Furthermore, risk factors for ABIs include having a psychiatric history. ABIs can further exacerbate existing mental and behavioural disorder.
Yet, much psychiatric morbidity goes unrecognised following ABI, as rehabilitation tends to focus on physical disabilities and personal care support, with a significant burden on carers and clients, as a result of untreated mental and behavioural problems.
What are the effects of a Brain Injury?
The effects of a brain injury can be complicated and varied, often presenting themselves after the original impact occurred. Even minor injuries to the brain can trigger a range of debilitating after-effects, including mental health conditions such as depression, psychosis and changes in day-to-day capabilities and behaviour.
What are the signs or symptoms of a Brain Injury?
The most important thing to do after suffering an injury to the head is to see a doctor immediately. Although many people can feel normal after impact, there may be underlying damage such as blood clots or nerve damage that can be fatal if not identified quickly.
Minor brain injuries often result in a concussion, a temporary impairment to the brain’s cognitive function, which can result in symptoms such as dizziness, blurred eyesight, fatigue, memory loss and irritability. Concussion symptoms will often reduce within two weeks, but those who have suffered a more severe impact to the head may experience the following symptoms:
- Loss of consciousness
- Clear fluid coming from nose or ears
- Balance problems
- A constant headache
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What are the causes of Brain Injury?
Many different scenarios can cause head injuries. Common causes are high impact accidents such as a car crash or falling and hitting the head directly. Sports and physical assaults can often cause severe brain injuries as can stroke and brain tumours. Young children are more at risk from impact to the brain as their skull is not yet fully developed to protect from injuries.
The long-term effects of severe Brain Injury
Once injury to the brain has developed (this can take days or weeks) longer-term symptoms can occur. Commonly seen in clients with severe injuries and damage to the brain, caused by traumatic events such as a stroke or a brain tumour.
In cases of severe brain injury it is essential to get specialist help. as the client may find themselves struggling in many areas of their life. Behavioural changes such as violent outbursts, irritability and lack of empathy can be devastating within a family environment, as can psychotic episodes triggered by the brain damage. In these situations, psychiatric treatment is needed to rehabilitate the person into a stable life pattern, with ongoing support in regulating moods and mental health conditions.
As with many mental health conditions, there is a level of misunderstanding within society about brain injury and its effects, as it is not necessarily noticeable at first glance, causing difficulties when a person showcases certain behaviours such as difficulty in communication, the speed of thought processing and speech. It is common for these symptoms to manifest into a mental health problem such as depression or psychosis as the client struggles with life after the accident that has caused the injury. Often a client with severe brain injury is referred to a medical institution or care home, as they are unable to continue with their previous life and need daily help completing simple tasks.
For families wishing to prevent their loved one from leaving a comforting home environment, there are alternative solutions such as in-home care by professionals, who are trained to support clients with brain injury from the primary day-to-day tasks right through to coping with mental health conditions and physical impairments such as paralysis.
Types of Brain Injury
Major injuries to the brain are of following types:
Haemorrhage is a condition where the brain is bleeding uncontrollably, either within the brain tissue (intracerebral) or in the space between (subarachnoid). Symptoms can show as vomiting and headaches, but can sometimes go unnoticed unless the person seeks medical help quickly.
Severe brain impact can cause blood to clot outside or around the vessels – a hematoma. These clots can be extremely dangerous as they allow pressure to build up and can cause irreparable brain damage.
As with most injuries, an impact can cause swelling, and Oedema is where the brain tissue swells and presses against the sides of the head which, unlike skin, is unable to stretch to accommodate the extra size.
Diffuse axonal injury
Harder to detect than other brain injuries, diffuse axonal injury occurs when there is damage to the brain cells, which can impair functionality and also cause swelling. It is a dangerous injury and can cause severe brain damage or, in some cases, death.