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  • Writer's pictureJason Carrasco

Personality After a Traumatic Brain Injury

Introducing Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)


When considering the challenges that attribute to experiencing a TBI there are multiple variables that alter an individual’s lifestyle. There could be significant changes to the individual’s physical health that may require long-term accommodations to be made, such as making an individual’s home more accessible and getting assistance to perform everyday tasks. For this particular post, we want to highlight the shift that may occur in one’s personality when suffering from a TBI. To provide a brief definition of personality, it is defined as individualized characteristics and behaviours that comprise an individual's uniqueness. We will discuss how you could predict a change in personality in individuals with a TBI, the specific ways a personality could change, and how this switch occurs. To read more about what causes a TBI read our blog titled “Difficulties After a Traumatic Brain Injury”.

Predicting A Personality Shift Using A-B-C Framework

One way of predicting whether an individual is experiencing a change in their personality due to a TBI could be to explore noticeable behavioural changes. Investigating behavioural changes could be done through the A-B-C framework which is used to determine when and why behaviour or emotional responses occur (Hollis et al., 2021). The A-B-C approach is mainly done in parts where you can not perform the second one without doing the first. This approach looks like this…


Step 1: A for Antecedent


Antecedent in this case is described as the situation that occurs before the problem behaviour and it could be the cause of them. Here is when an individual or those around them may find it helpful to understand which events create a pattern when an individual with a TBI presents problem behaviours. Problem behaviours are known as negative traits, such as aggression, consistent irritability, and anxiousness (Hollis et al., 2021). Some questions to consider could be ‘Where does the problem behaviour occur?’, ‘What events took place before the problem behaviour happened?’, or ‘Is there a root cause of the problem behaviour?’.


Step 2: B for Behaviour

Here is where individuals with a TBI or those in contact with someone with a TBI would want to closely examine behaviours once they are expressed (Hollis et al., 2021). Some questions that could make this step easier may be ‘What does the behaviour look like?’, ‘How often does this behaviour happen?’, or ‘ How long does the behaviour last?’. Asking these questions has the possibility to guide individuals with a TBI in the right direction when they want to understand what kind of behaviour they exhibit after experiencing an intense head injury and whether their behaviours are problem behaviours.


Step 3: C for Consequences


The final component of this framework would be to acknowledge the consequences of the behaviours that were caused by an antecedent (Hollis et al., 2021). To understand the consequences of behaviours as an outcome of a TBI the individual or those around them could pay attention to the changes that are seen in environments once possible problem behaviours are expressed. From there, questions to consider could be ‘What happened right after the problem behaviour?’, ‘How did people react?’, or ‘Was something taken away or avoided because of the behaviour?’ (Hollis et al., 2021).

Why Does Personality Change After A Traumatic Brain Injury?

When asking why an individual’s personality changes after experiencing a TBI, the answer could be related to the brain's location where the injury occurred (Mahar, 2022). For instance, if the orbitofrontal cortex, which is an area in the prefrontal cortex that sits at the lower part of an individual’s front brain, becomes damaged in any way the individual may feel the urge to consistently act on impulsive and reckless behaviour and struggle to empathize with others (Mahar, 2022). This could be due to the orbitofrontal cortex being in charge of decision-making abilities and could result in a decline in characteristics of logic and reason (Stalnaker, Cooch, & Schoenbaum, 2015). If an individual who suffers from a TBI did not exhibit reckless impulses prior to their injury, it may be a significant concern for those around them as they may seem completely different. This provides another challenge caused by a personality shift after a TBI, which is that the individual suffering from a TBI may lose positive connections with friends because they are unable to control their uncharacteristically reckless and impulsive personality.

Changes In Personality

It is quite common for individuals to experience a shift in their personality when suffering from a TBI and regardless of the severity of the damage to the brain, there still may be a significant change in personality. For instance, when an individual faces a mild concussion they may still exhibit a shift in personality just the same as someone who has experienced severe trauma to their head would (Thomas, 2022). Some common personality changes after a TBI could include being quick to become frustrated or angry, being unable to regulate emotions, and expressing emotions during inappropriate situations. More personality shifts could include the inability to express emotions in general, possibly showcasing more aggressive behaviour, and having compulsive or inflexible tendencies (Thomas, 2022).

Where To Go from Here?

Exploring the subject of traumatic brain injury and those who suffer from it is not light-hearted or easy. TBI causes immense struggles with an individual’s ability to control their behaviour. However, it is our hope that providing the A-B-C framework and continuing to open the conversation up about TBI will grant those who suffer from it, whether directly or as a close contact, will gain comfort in the information. Seeking out assistance when coping with a TBI can be challenging, however, we can make it easy for you through our online counselling services or you can contact us at (226) 894-4112 or via email at admin@relationshipmatterstherapy.com.

Sources


Hollis, S., Klebine, P., Nakase-Richardson, R., Novack, T., & Reslan, S. (2021). Understanding behavior changes after TBI. MSKTC. Retrieved March 6, 2023, from https://msktc.org/tbi/factsheets/understanding-behavior-changes-after-tbi#:~:text=People%20with%20a%20TBI%20may,move%20in%20a%20repetitive%20way.

Mahar, C. (2022). Personality changes after head injury: Causes and treatment. Flint Rehab. Retrieved March 6, 2023, from https://www.flintrehab.com/personality-changes-after-head-injury/

Stalnaker, T. A., Cooch, N. K., & Schoenbaum, G. (2015). What the orbitofrontal cortex does not do. Nature Neuroscience, 18(5), 620–627. https://doi.org/10.1038/nn.3982

Thomas, A. (2022). Can brain injury change your personality? Hackensack Meridian Health. Retrieved March 7, 2023, from https://www.hackensackmeridianhealth.org/en/HealthU/2022/03/01/Can-Brain-Injury-Change-Your-Personality#.ZAfM23bMJD9

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