Coping With Inappropriate Behavior Caused by a Brain Injury

A woman comforts an elderly man who has exhibited inappropriate behavior caused by a brain injury.

There are a number of inappropriate behaviors caused by a brain injury, and these tips can help caregivers cope with them.

There are many different types of brain injuries, but certain behavioral difficulties are common regardless of the type of brain injury that occurs. Some inappropriate behaviors caused by a brain injury may be more or less likely based on the area and severity of the trauma, but your loved one might demonstrate one or more of these behaviors throughout TBI recovery, regardless of the specifics of the injury.

The first step in handling inappropriate behavior caused by a brain injury is to know what the potential behaviors are so that you can identify them – not taking them personally, helping when possible, and intervening when necessary. Recognizing the behavior as a symptom of the injury can help inform your decision about the best course of action to keep yourself, your loved one, and the people in your life both physically and emotionally safe.

Empathy Issues – After a brain injury, your loved one may suddenly seem very self-centered. For example, they might demand rather than ask nicely, or say things that hurt your feelings or are unreasonable without seeming to care. The lack of empathy is not a lack of love. It is an injury-related problem caused by issues with abstract thinking skills.

Inappropriate Emotional Response – The person might not demonstrate emotional responses to stimuli that triggered those very responses before the brain injury. They may not laugh when something is amusing, smile when seeing something beautiful, or cry when something is sad. The response may also be contextually inappropriate, not matching the current state. For example, they might laugh when sad or cry for no specific reason.

Denial – It is normal for people with traumatic brain injuries to adamantly insist that they are not symptomatic. At times this is due to the actual brain injury, but it also can be basic denial unconsciously executed as a coping mechanism to postpone the confrontation of fear and/or uncertainty about how to navigate the realities of life after trauma.

Memory Problems – Problems with memory are often the first thing the general public thinks of when someone experiences a TBI. Short-term memory problems or amnesia can occur, but, surprisingly, the retention of new information is the most common memory-related issue people will likely experience as a result of brain trauma.

Emotional Volatility – Emotional volatility, also called emotional lability, is a rapid, frequently exaggerated mood swing that is often extreme and might come across as an overreaction.

Poor Concentration – After a TBI, a person may become easily distracted, have problems with multitasking, lose track in a discussion or experience information overload.

Aggression – Aggressive behavior after a brain injury is very common. Understanding what triggers an aggressive response for your loved one can help in preventing the behavior.

Sexual Inappropriateness – Someone with a TBI might have an enhanced interest in sex, a reduced interest in sex, or a lack of understanding about the contextual appropriateness of a sexual expression or behavior.

Personality Change – Everyone goes through personality changes as they progress through life, but people with a TBI can experience extreme, abrupt personality changes that can be disorienting to the people who know and love them.

If you understand what behaviors are common in traumatic brain injuries, you can be ready for them if they appear and see them for what they are — a symptom of the injury. They are not a representation of the person’s opinion or emotional investment in you.

If you have a loved one with a brain injury and need help navigating any of these difficult behaviors, either at home or in a care facility, Advanced Home Health Care can help. Contact us to learn more about how our home care services can help someone you love in Keokuk, Burlington, Mt. Pleasant, or the surrounding areas, or to schedule your free care consultation at 800.791.7785.

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