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Changes after a brain injury

Social and emotional changes

A brain injury can cause the following social and emotional changes:

  • changes to your personality (you may be quieter, more outspoken, get upset easily, or have trouble controlling anger)
  • poor emotional control
  • mood swings that don’t seem to be related to what’s happening
  • being demanding, focused only on yourself (self-centered), or impatient
  • losing interest in hobbies or activities you used to enjoy

Getting upset easily and having trouble controlling anger are common personality changes after a brain injury. This can be related to:

  • the areas of the brain that were damaged
  • not being able to do things as easily as you could before the injury

Tips for family and caregivers

In situations before the injury, your loved one may not always have said what they were thinking. But now they may. Or, they may blurt out angry words before they know it or before they can stop themselves from saying something hurtful.

They may get angry over things that don’t seem like a big deal to you. And like anyone, they may also get mad at themselves or those closest to them. It’s important not to:

  • take it personally if they get upset with you
  • blame them if they get upset easily
  • tell them that they could control their temper if they try harder

The following tips can help you support someone who’s dealing with social and emotional changes after a brain injury.

  • Stay calm if they have an outburst.
  • After they calm down, suggest that it may help to write down what made them angry or upset, what they were thinking and what they did, and what happened after they were angry or upset. This gives them a record of what happened. They can then look back at what they wrote to see and think about what happened.
  • When they’re calm, suggest or work together to come up with other ways to respond or act to what made them upset. Let them know when they’ve responded or acted well.
  • Encourage them to step away from the situation if they get angry or frustrated. Have them go for a walk or sit somewhere quiet until they’re less angry or frustrated.
  • Listen to them and let them know you want to understand how they feel.

Other ways to lessen the chance of an outburst include:

  • getting enough sleep
  • avoiding drinks with caffeine or alcohol
  • letting things go if they get upset – You can talk to them about the outburst at a later time with they’re calm.
  • knowing which situations lead to anger and calmly changing or avoiding them​

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