What is a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)?

TBI is an umbrella term that encompasses many different forms of head injuries. An acquired brain injury can occur whenever the brain is jarred or hit. This article focuses on these types of head injuries. This form of TBI could occur from a fall, car accident, sport accident, or an act of violence. Anything that jars the brain hard enough to interfere with neuro-signaling or physically damages the brain, i.e. bruising or bleeding in/on the brain can create a TBI. TBIs can range in levels of severity. If the brain is hit or jarred hard enough the neuro-connections can become disconnected or disrupted and a person’s cognitive, emotional, or behavioral processes can be negatively impacted. When these areas of an individual’s life are impacted their personality and character may appear to change.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that 1.5 million Americans each year sustain a TBI. Males are more likely than females to sustain TBIs throughout their lives per the CDC. Not only do TBIs impact numerous people but their financial costs are often carried by taxpayers’ dollars. Now that we have defined what a TBI is, how they are sustained and some general statistics, we will discuss tentative plans of recovery for a mild and more severe TBI.

The time between when a TBI is sustained and treatment is critical. The longer treatment interventions are delayed may result in higher levels of dysfunction and decrease the likelihood of a full recovery for the individual involved. Treatment interventions can range from rest and decrease in stimulation to a person needing to have brain surgery to stop internal bleeding. In situations involving severe TBI cases, time in both the Intensive Care Unit and inpatient rehabilitation programs may be necessary. After immediate acute interventions are completed, a person’s road of recovery begins.

Recovery from a TBI can look different for every person even among varying levels TBI severity. With milder TBIs, an individual may decrease their work week for a short period of time or stay home from work until cleared to return to work, need assistance or prompts to complete daily tasks, and/or need to decrease stimulation in their environment. With more severe TBIs a person may start therapy services while in inpatient rehabilitation and carry these services to outpatient after being discharged from the hospital. Outpatient services will vary from person to person so a brief overview will follow.

A person with a TBI may engage in either or all services as follows: one on one mental health therapy, speech therapy, physical therapy, and/or occupational therapy. Mental health therapy can assist with processing various aspects of how the TBI was sustained, changes in a person’s personality or character, grief and loss, identity shifts related to activities a person could once do and can no longer participate in. Speech therapy services can support and may enhance one’s cognitive functioning and deficits such as attention, concentration, word finding, etc. Physical therapy may target large or small muscle groups to increase a person’s overall strength and endurance. Lastly, occupational therapy targets various domains related to perceptual awareness, fine motor movements, and honing functional skills to navigate life meaningfully and effectively.

No TBI is the same and no one person’s recovery will look the same. It is vitally important to consult with your doctor if you believe you have sustained a TBI. After immediate assessments have been completed and the TBI severity has been determined an individual can move forward with their recovery process. Please reach out if you or someone you know have experienced a TBI and are in need of mental health services related to this injury. 

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