We’ve spoken before about the mind-body connection for your physical health and mental health. Your mental condition, thoughts, beliefs and feelings can affect your physical health. And how well you take care of your body, including diet and exercise, can affect your mental well-being.
But nowhere is the mind-body connection more direct than in your brain. A physical injury to the brain can directly affect your cognitive, behavioural, emotional and physical abilities. In that way, many symptoms of some brain injuries can be treated with both medical treatments and psychotherapy.
Still, many brain injury symptoms are often not recognized as mental health issues and, as such, they may not be properly or fully treated.
In an effort to increase awareness of the complexity, prevalence, implications and gravity of brain injuries, June is recognized as Brain Injury Awareness Month across Canada.
What Are Brain Injuries?
Generally, when we talk about brain injuries we refer to acquired brain injuries (ABI), which are injuries to the brain that are not hereditary, congenital, degenerative, or due to trauma at birth.
There are two types of acquired brain injuries.
Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) – A traumatic brain injury is defined by the Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) as “an alteration in brain function, or other evidence of brain pathology, caused by an external force. Traumatic impact injuries can be defined as closed (or non-penetrating) or open (penetrating).”
Traumatic brain injuries can result from the following, among other causes:
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Struck by/against an object
- Gunshot wounds
- Shaken baby syndrome
- Sports injuries, including concussions
- Other injuries caused by trauma
Non-Traumatic Brain Injuries (NTBI) – The BIAA defines a non-traumatic brain injury as “an alteration in brain function or pathology caused by an internal force.”
Non-traumatic brain injuries can result from the following:
- Substance abuse
- Hypoxia (oxygen deprivation to brain)
- Toxic exposures/poisoning
- Hydrocephalus (fluid in the brain)
- Vasculitis (inflammation of blood vessels in the brain)
- Hematoma (blood collecting on the surface of the brain)
Symptoms of Brain Injury
Both TBI and NTBI injuries can cause similar symptoms, which can range from mild to severe and last for just a few hours, or affect the sufferer for a lifetime.
Symptoms are also wide-ranging and one or more of them can affect almost every aspect of a person’s day-to-day physical and mental functioning. No two brain injuries are alike and each person will experience a unique combination of symptoms.
Symptoms generally fall into the following four categories.
- Physical Symptoms – These can include issues related to mobility, communication, headaches, balance, seizures, and sensory changes, including changes in vision, taste, smell, touch and ringing in the ears.
- Cognitive Symptoms – Changes in thinking, learning and decision making can result in difficulty or more time needed to communicate and understand communications; recall information; make plans; organize thoughts and concentrate.
- Emotional Symptoms – Including irritability, depression, anxiety, anger, sudden emotional changes and muted emotional responses.
- Behavioural Symptoms – Changes in behaviour can include engaging in risky and/or impulsive behaviours; inappropriate verbal responses (no “filter”); and relationship difficulties and isolation from family and friends.
The Prevalence of Brain Injuries
If brain injuries are generally not well understood, one of their least recognized implications is their impact on society.
According to Brain Injury Canada, brain injuries are the leading cause of death and disability for Canadians under the age of 40. ABI affects approximately 1.5 million Canadians and the incidence of ABI (160,000 new cases every year) is higher than that of Multiple Sclerosis, Spinal Cord Injury, HIV/AIDS and Breast Cancer combined.
If you or your loved one has mental health symptoms related to a brain injuries, please contact us here at BRCook Psychological Services and schedule an appointment.
I am a certified solution-focused therapist, and I integrate a number of theoretical orientations into my practice including cognitive-behavioural, humanistic, psychodynamic, reality focused therapy. In essence, my experience and style have been dynamically moved into an eclectic approach that best seems to fit the client and their personal needs.
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