Brain injury is something that is hard to grasp for those who have not experienced one. When your brain is hit to the point that you experience nauseas, headache, memory loss, neck pain, fatigue and/or insomnia for weeks or months, the fiber bundles that connect one side of your brain to the other side are torn and injuries to the blood vessels limit blood flow to the brain areas. There is also inflammation that can add to the burden of trauma to the brain and prolong the concussion symptoms in individual patients. Since these symptoms, unlike injury to your limbs or having a burn on your skin, are invisible, people around you may wonder if you are exaggerating your issues.
Living with a brain injury comes with a number of challenges, but one of the most difficult is the lack of understanding they perceive from others.
Many sufferers of brain injury are met with comments from people who may be well-meaning but their comments are actually hurtful. It is also not uncommon for caretakers of people with brain injury to become frustrated and say things they shouldn’t.
Here is a list of ten things you should not say to a person with a brain injury:
1. You are so grumpy!
One of the most common signs of brain injury is irritability. It can be hard to live with a person who seems to be angry or moody constantly. Grumpiness can be a direct result of the injury itself or a side effect of associated fatigue, anxiety, sleep disorders, depression or chronic pain. It can come and go without warning.
2. You are not trying hard enough.
Apathy, or general lack of interest, emotion or motivation, is not uncommon after a brain injury. It often gets in the way of recovery and rehabilitation. Sometimes people may mistake it for laziness but it is a real problem that requires treatment.
3. You seem perfectly fine to me.
Unlike many other forms of injury, the signs of a brain injury are often invisible. They include memory problems, fatigue, chronic pain, insomnia, anxiety, depression and more. Sometimes these disabilities are harder to live with than those that are visible, such as a person who has a visible scar or missing limb. Struggling with invisible symptoms can be disabling.
4. Do you realize how much I actually do for you?
It is possible that your loved one already realizes how much you do and likely suffers an insurmountable amount of guilt because of it. It may also be possible that your love one simply does not and will not ever understand. Either way, it can be hard for you to constantly work to take care of a person who needs regular attention and care, needing to unload some of your burden – but the best person to pass that on to is not the person needing the care. Rather, reach out to a close friend, family member or counselor.
5. How many times do I have to repeat this to you?
Repeating yourself can be frustrating, but keep in mind that most people with brain injury experience memory problems to some degree. Rather than pointing out a flaw, look for a solution instead. Create a routine, simplify the task or make it easier.
6. You take too many medications.
Many traumatic brain injury (TBI) prescription medications carry side effects, including memory problems, mania, sluggishness, weight gain and more. A person with a brain injury is sensitive to the side effects of their drugs. But if you blame every struggle of theirs on their medication, you may either encourage them to stop taking their medications or you might be overlooking another brain injury sign.
7. Just try to think positively for once.
As the person without a brain injury, this may sound simple to do, but doing so for a person with a brain injury is incredibly trying. Negative thinking that is repetitive is called rumination and it is common after a brain injury. It is often related to conditions like anxiety and depression, so working through those problems may help to reduce negative thinking.
8. You are lucky to be alive.
Although this is positive thinking on one hand, looking on the bright side, a person with a brain injury is more likely to have thoughts of self-injury or suicide. Rather than referring to it as “luck,” remind them about how strong the person is for reaching the place they are at today.
9. How about I do that for you.
It may be easier to do things yourself for your loved one, but it is important to encourage them to develop independence and control after a brain injury. It can also help the brain to recover quicker.
10. Take this supplement and you will feel much better.
Patients with persistent concussion symptoms have suffered an injury to their brain. While some supplements may have some benefits for some patients, it is not reasonable to believe that any one supplement would cure a patient of their concussion. They need a comprehensive brain rehabilitation program that can address their individual symptoms into consideration and tailor a series of interventions that is unique them.
NeuroGrow Brain Fitness Center offers a “concussion recovery program” that is both comprehensive and personalized. Like a “physical therapy program for your brain,” it consists of 12-weeks of biweekly brain coaching and brain training interventions. A recent analysis of this program (now under review for publication in the Journal of Rehabilitation) showed that 89% of patient had remarkable improvements in their cognitive function.
To learn more about this program, you can visit www.neurogrow.com.
This blog was written by Ms. Courtney Cosby, and edited by Dr. Majid Fotuhi. The main source for the above information was brainline.org.