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Traumatic Brain Injury and PTSD: Everyone is Vulnerable

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

As a result of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is a tendency to think of traumatic brain injuries being suffered by soldiers exposed to blasts in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is no question that, due to the nature of these two wars and the role played by roadside bombs and suicide bombers, our soldiers are suffering TBIs in numbers equalled by many other wars. However, it is also true that civilians at home in the United States also suffer from TBIs caused by a diverse number of accidents. For example, here in the United States, such things as auto and bicycle accidents, falls from ladders, play on the football and baseball fields, motorcycle crashes and any and even slipping and falling on a banana peel can also cause TBI.

What is Traumatic Brain Injury?

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is precisely what it says it is. As a result of a trauma, the brain is injured. This injury can be caused either by something penetrating the skull and harming the brain or from any type of blunt force trauma that causes the skull to hit something hard, causing the brain to hit up against the skull.

TBI can be mild, moderate or severe in nature. The odd thing is that those people suffering moderate to severe types of injuries have a better chance of full recovery than those with mild injuries. Moderate to severe injuries often cause unconscious and even comatose states. With rapid medical intervention, the head is stabilized and any additional harm to the head is prevented. When the person regains consciousness, they often have no memory of what caused the accident or of the accident itself. Eventually, they are able to return home and to work.

It is the mild type of TBI that is most often suffered by soldiers and civilians. The injury may or may not result in a brief loss of consciousness. However, after recovery, patients suffer from a wide variety of symptoms from neurologic and psychiatric conditions, including Alzheimer’s-type dementia, aggression, memory loss, depression, and Parkinson-like symptoms. In addition, these patients experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD). It is also known that many TBI patients experience "simple" or partial seizures such as found in people with epilepsy.  Depending on the part of the brain affected by the injury, these patients may have memory lapses, imaginary voices, bursts of anxiety and other emotional and cognitive oddities.

Whether war veterans or civilians suffering from TBI treatment includes anti seizure medications along with anti depressants and cognitive behavioral therapy, particularly for the PTSD.

A Personal Note:

I continue to be amazed and troubled by a small number of people who debunk post traumatic stress disorder, particularly with regard to our war veterans. A few comment posted here at Mental Help Net have stated that the veterans are falsifying their symptoms so as to collect disability from the armed services. While there are always going to be a few unscrupulous people who take advantage of the system to commit fraud, by and large, most suffers veterans with PTSD are genuine in their disability. The same holds true for civilians who have suffered head injuries resulting in both TBI and PTSD.

Cautionary Note:

This is why it is important for those who ride bicycles, motorcycles, and who do such things as skate board and engage in other sports activities, to wear protective head gear. I see many motor cycle riders who defy death by not wearing helmet. These men and women seem to be in denial about the fact that there are fates worse than death. Head injuries resulting in TBI and worse(a vegetative state) are fates that can be worse than anything they ever imagined.

It is important for everyone to break through their own denial and wear seat belts when driving and other protective gear when engaged in other activities that can lead to head injuries.

Your comments are welcome and encouraged.

Allan N. Schwartz,PhD

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