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Personality changes: A difficult problem following a brain injury

After a brain injury, there is a possibility that a person's entire nature could change. Personality changes aren't as uncommon as you may think when brain injuries are involved.

There are many things you may not feel you can say following a loved one's injuries, but one is a reality: Their personality changed and is no longer familiar. It's a difficult thing to deal with, especially because once calm and collected individuals may become anxious or aggressive, or vice-versa.

What happens when a person suffers an injury to the brain?

Depending on the part of the brain impacted, the brain may begin to swell or bleed, impacting speech, memories and behavior, among other actions or reactions. For people who have the parts of their brains that control emotion and impulse control affected, they may develop what some refer to as "Jekyll and Hyde syndrome."

This means that they may act as they always did in the past most of the time but suddenly have mood swings or changes in behavior seemingly out of nowhere. It's hard to predict and difficult for families to deal with.

Damage to the amygdala, hippocampus, temporal lobes or frontal lobes can all cause people to become volatile, agitated, verbally aggressive, physically aggressive or show signs of memory impairment or poor impulse control. The person's executive functions may be impaired, meaning that the person who suffered an injury may have trouble making sound judgments, decisions or problem-solving.

Behavioral outbursts are not uncommon when these areas of the brain are affected and patients show signs of emotional instability. The worst thing is that many people develop psychiatric issues following brain injuries that do require significant therapy and sometimes medications. Substance abuse, obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder could all be a result of brain injuries that require treatment.

Is there help for people with emotional changes following a brain injury?

Yes, although the exact needs of each patient will vary. Some benefit from changes in their circumstances, additional assistance at home or therapy. Some do well on medications to help balance the chemicals in the brain.

Changes in personality aren't always easy to manage, especially for patients who recognize the impact their sudden differences are causing. It is important that patients get appropriate medical care as they work to stabilize their emotions and personality while their brains heal and recover.

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