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Copyright © 1998 Head Injury Hotline
Recognizing When You Need Help


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March 28th, 2002,

Life after brain injury
 
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Tacoma, WA
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     Most people are ill prepared and unequipped for the life changes they face following a brain injury. Many doctors take a "wait and see attitude," expecting the patient to know when something is wrong, and report back to them. Most people are unaware that the behavioral and cognitive changes they experience might have resulted from a brain injury, and do not report them to their doctors. 
      Other times, the communication, memory and perceptual disorders caused by brain injury prevent the patient from reporting such symptoms. In other cases patients feel shamed by the appearance of such symptoms in themselves and deliberately withhold them from their doctors. The forms in this section  will prepare you to recognize and track impairments caused by brain injury. Other pages will help you to know when you need help and how to find it. Still other pages provide guidelines for choosing  and evaluating professional services.
    Detecting Brain Injury Impairments:    Head injury can cause symptoms that are easily mistaken for signs mental illness, hysteria, and other brain or personality disorders. A competent, neuropsychological evaluation can distinguish between mental illness and brain injury impairments. For the most accurate assessment of your symptoms choose a doctor who specializes in treating Post Concussion Syndrome. To help your doctor arrive at an appropriate diagnosis, you must provide thorough, accurate, and factual information. This section has been designed to help you identify, track, and measure symptoms you might have experienced  following a head injury.
     Many head injury impairments resemble the normal, human limitations that we all experience from time-to-time. What distinguishes them from normal is: the degree and frequency of their appearance; the circumstances surrounding their appearance; and their disabling characteristics. Assessment tools in this section will prepare you to identify and track such symptoms and circumstances.  You can access these tools via the Self Assessment Menu, above or via the Toolkit located in the Library 

    It is normal to have a bad day once in a while. On such days your memory might be poor and you might feel out-of-sorts or easily distracted. To that mix you find that your ability to solve problems, exercise good judgment and do simple math is sadly deficient. You fail to recognize a familiar voice, or face, and nothing makes sense. Furthermore, you find yourself unable to find the words to communicate what you want to say, and how you feel. 

     There are days when you have mood swings and do not feel good about yourself. On such days you do not like your self, nor are you particularly pleased with the direction your life is taking. Some days, for no apparent reason, you might feel irritable, tearful and become difficult to get along with. On other days you feel physically ill, dizzy, weak, and lose your appetite. When such symptoms characterize your days, and when symptom-free days become the exception, a neuropsychological evaluation might be in order. Such symptoms filled days are the stuff of Post Concussion Syndrome, without proper management they can lead to crippling consequences. 

     Take care to note what caused you to notice any troublesome impairments. Identify and record things that made them better and things that made them worse. Also note, to what degree, if any, they interfered with your activities. It can also be used for tracking things that you want to change or work on that are not particularly troublesome.

You Know You Need Help When... 
    The foregoing  represent the types of the impairments or difficulties that commonly follow brain injury. Individually, the effects of such impairments may be quite subtle, but collectively, they can be quite devastating. The interventions in this section were designed to track and measure such impairments. 

    You know you need help when such impairments substantially interfere with your ability to perform your normal daily activities. Other times, you might want to seek help for things that you want to change that are not especially troublesome. You should consult a doctor regarding anything  that causes you to feel concern. 

  Conditions such as auras, altered consciousness, weird reveres, flashing lights in your head, metallic taste in your mouth, smelling fragrances that others do not smell, or hearing music that others do not hear, muscle spasms or twitching, feelings of disembodiment or observing yourself from afar, vague longing or yearning, raging, crying or laughing for no apparent reason might signify seizure activity. In such cases you might want to pursue a seizure assessment. Your doctor and/or The National Epilipsy Foundationhttp://www.headinjury.com/linksepil.htm,  can refer you to a center in your area where you can obtain such an assessment. 

     Anger, anxiety, and anxiousness, rapid mood swings, depression, feeling blue, fearful, guilt, rapid mood swings, listlessness, paranoia, feelings of panic, irritability, and loneliness and other such symptoms might signify psychological disorders. For such conditions you should first seek a medical assessment; then choose a doctor with special training and interests in diagnosing and treating psychological disorders that result from brain injury, see Doctor Finder

     Difficulties concentrating, mental tracking, making decisions, executing or doing things, initiating or starting things, along with diminished analytical skills, diminished capacity for reality testing , attentional defects, etc., have to do with cognition or knowing and doing things. Often such problems respond well to cognitive rehabilitation. Centers that specialize in diagnosing and treating head injuries are good sources of cognitive rehabilitation. Visit the Rehab Facilities ,   http://www.headinjury.com/rehabfacility.htm, page on headinjury.com for a rehab center near you.

Difficulties communicating, stuttering, finding and expressing words, understanding and being understood are the stuff of speech pathology. The National Aphasia Foundation can provide information about such communications disorders. Conditions such as, blurred and/or double vision, floaters, blind spots and visual neglect fall within the purview of opthometrics, or vision specialists that treat vision difficulties caused by physical trauma, such as head injury. See Vision Disorders

    Heart pounding, rapid pulse, shallow respiration, headache or pain, tinnitus or ringing in the ears, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, might signify brain injury impairments they could also indicate other medical conditions, and should be evaluated by a knowledgeable physician. Refer to the Doctor Finderhttp://www.headinjury.com/doctorfind.htm,  page on headinjury.com  for guidelines on selecting and evaluating  doctors and practitioners that treat these and other such conditions. Also see TBI Programs and Support Groups


 
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