The brain is arguably the most complex organ in the body. Protecting the brain is extremely important for survival, but there are times when a traumatic brain injury can occur regardless of safety measures taken.
Put plainly, a traumatic brain injury, or TBI, is some sort of acquired brain damage. It occurs when some type of harm happens to the brain, such as a bludgeoning or concussive explosion. A traumatic brain injury will most likely occur when something violently hits the head or when an object penetrates the brain tissue itself. Common symptoms of a TBI include, but are not limited to:
- Loss of consciousness
- Feeling dazed
- Disrupted sleep patterns
- Blurred vision or loss of balance
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- Sensitivity to loud noise or bright light
- Mood changes
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that since 2001 there has been a slow but steady rise in the number of people who experience some kind of traumatic brain injury in the United States each year. For men, the spike was as much as 40%, while women saw a 20% increase overall.
A significant portion of the population (about 4% collectively) dies each year from preventable TBIs such as automobile accidents, blunt force trauma, and dangerous lifestyle habits. Because a traumatic brain injury can ultimately lead to a decrease in mental capacity, monitoring healthy brain activity after such an event is crucial.
Traumatic brain injuries gained mainstream interest due in large part to the soldiers returning home that had been wounded by improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. At the height of the wars, 78% of all combat injuries reported were the result of explosive munitions. The concussive effects of these blasts made a mild TBI or concussion one of the most common combat-related injuries. In fact, approximately 15% of all U.S. troops that engaged in active combat in Iraq or Afghanistan may have suffered some level of traumatic brain injury.
In the U.S. there is a burgeoning field of research on the causes and effects of traumatic brain injury, and researchers are focused on learning more about discovering effective treatments TBIs. At this time, treatment for TBIs can include medical procedures, medications, speech or physical therapy, and/or psychotherapy.
There are several recommended therapy choices when it comes to traumatic brain injuries. One of the most effective methods is psychotherapy without the use of surgeries or psychotropic medications. However, this is usually only possible when the traumatic brain injury is mild to moderately severe. Cognitive behavioral therapy, for example, can be effective at helping a person with a TBI become aware of his or her own behavioral patterns and monitor them for changes. Different types of psychotherapy may be useful for helping a person understand the injury, accept the injury, and adjust relationships and roles because of the injury.
Case Examples of Traumatic Brain Injury
- Traumatic Brian Injury from Vehicular Accident – Albert, 31, is an experienced police officer who recently endured a tragic motor vehicle crash while on duty. Albert hit his head on the steering wheel during the crash and lost consciousness. Albert was airlifted after the accident to a hospital where he had an MRI conducted to scan for internal damage. The MRI determined that Albert suffered a severe traumatic brain injury as part of the crash. Albert was transferred to a rehabilitation facility for the traumatic brain injury where physical therapists are helping Albert work on regaining speech capability and motor function, and a psychologist is helping him assess and regain some of his short-term memory functions. Albert will be on a structured treatment plan for a few months to assess his progress and what, if any, changes occur in his behavior.
- Traumatic Brain Injury from Explosive Munitions – Jessica, 23, is a former U.S. soldier who served time in Iraq. During a convoy escorting relief supplies to a village in Anbar province, she was injured in a roadside bomb attack. Jessica only suffered minor abrasions, but was knocked unconscious by the improvised explosive device. Several months later, she returned home to Texas and discharged from the military. She began experiencing severe headaches and felt like no matter how much she slept, she still woke up tired. Confused and angered by the conditions she is experiencing, Jessica started feeling depressed and hopeless when the headaches grew more severe. Jessica finds it extremely difficult to get out of bed some days and has decided to make an appointment with her VA mental health counselor, who suspects her conditions are related the attack in Iraq, to schedule an MRI.
- Rates of TBI-related Emergency Department Visits, Hospitalizations, and Deaths by Sex — United States, 2001–2010. (February 2014). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved November 10, 2014, from http://www.cdc.gov/traumaticbraininjury/data/rates_bysex.html
- Traumatic brain injury. (n.d.). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved November 10, 2014, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/traumatic-brain-injury/basics/symptoms/con-20029302
- Traumatic brain injury. (n.d.). S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Retrieved November 10, 2014, from http://www.publichealth.va.gov/docs/vhi/traumatic-brain-injury-vhi.pdf
- Traumatic brain injury and PTSD. (n.d.). National Center for PTSD. Retrieved November 10, 2014, from http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/problems/traumatic_brain_injury_and_ptsd.asp