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Traumatic Brain Injury and PTSD Issues Can Mimic

The Perfect Storm: Traumatic Brain Injuries and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

traumatic brain injury can happen on the docksAn article by author Marilyn Lash published in the Brain Injury Journal, she called Traumatic Brain Injury and PTSD “the perfect storm” because both can be devastating.

Traumatic brain injury and PTSD can occur concurrently; together the physical and psychological issues from both at one time are debilitating.

Garfinkel Schwartz fights for those who have been injured and then, cut off from medical care and medical benefits. It’s horrible and it’s unfair. Family and loved ones struggle to pay bills and to pay for the expenses of caring for a loved one with traumatic brain injury and post dramatic stress disorder.

Lash was referring to the double whammy of what happens to a person who experiences traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder, together. Anyone who has had a traumatic event, a shocking life that involves danger, violence an explosion, a shooting, an assault or an attack of any kind can develop PTSD.

TBI and PTSD Can Happen Concurrently

Often, in the instance of civilian contractors who have dangerous and terrifying experiences that include traumatic brain injuries while working overseas for Department of Defense companies hired by the U.S. Government to work in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Syria or Africa.

It’s common for civilian contractors and veterans to be diagnosed with both TBI and PTSD; the symptoms are similar, but it can be challenging for medical professionals to sort out the cause of each symptom.

Dual Study: More Research Needed on TBI Causes

A study published on the Dialogues in Clinical Neurosurgery page of the National Institutes of Health website said more research is needed into the link between the two so that “the true nature and cause of symptoms after a traumatic brain injury” can be identified and treated.

NIH Study: TBI Patients Can’t Recall Incidents

The NIH study said it previously was thought that because patients lose consciousness during a traumatic brain injury, they couldn’t remember what happened, and therefore would not suffer from PTSD.

In recent years, there is much evidence to suggest otherwise, especially because of the experiences of military personnel and others returning from duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Many of those with prolonged exposure to combat, and with brain injuries from explosions or other violent attacks will have a dual diagnosis.

VA Study: TBI Can Add to PTSD

A Veterans Affairs Administration study recently said, “Structural and brain functions following a traumatic brain injury are likely additional contributors to PTSD outcomes.”

Common Characteristics of PTSD and TBI

Some of the characteristics common to PTSD and traumatic brain injury are:

  • Changes in memory and concentration
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia and fatigue
  • Aggressive behavior and irritability

Traumatic Brain Injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can also result in unexplained violence and outbursts.  The two conditions can feed and reinforce the other, according to Brainline.org.

Brainline.org: Subtle Differences in TBI and PTSD

Brainline.org noted there are subtle and not-so-subtle differences between TBI and PTSD conditions.  For example, traumatic brain injury patients will experience amnesia before and after the injury, while a PTSD sufferer often will remember and be haunted by thoughts of what happened.

Someone with a traumatic brain injury will have unpredictable emotions, often for no apparent reason, because of the structural changes in the brain.

Likewise, a person with PTSD often will be emotionally numb and have deadened feelings, which are common conditions.  Though people with traumatic brain injury can become anxious and irritable, often a prompt is needed to trigger the behavior and for much of the day they can be passive.  Someone with PTSD can have high levels of anxiety and feelings of being overwhelmed much of the time and become violent or highly agitated

Other differences:  an individual with traumatic brain injury tends to talk about the experience or injury, at times because of inability to control the impulse to talk (socially inappropriate behavior due to changes in the brain).  By contrast, a classic symptom of a person with PTSD is a reluctance to talk about the experience.

Anger is Common with TBI and with PTSD

Unfortunately, a tendency toward anger is common to both.  With a traumatic brain injury, an argument can escalate quickly; with a PTSD victim, it can increase to physical aggression, according to the Brainline.org website.

Families, Jobs, Relationships Are Often Effected by Turmoil

It goes without saying that many of these symptoms can affect marital and family relationships, employment and the ability to lead a normal life. If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with either traumatic brain injury or PTSD and you haven’t checked out the possibility of both conditions, you should. It’s possible that there are more treatments and therapies that can help and when properly identified proper treatments can be life changing.