Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are often linked. Often
the two conditions are sustained in the same event, and can share many
symptoms that may leave victims wondering if the two are related. Can
a brain injury cause PTSD? In short—no.
Brain injuries are physical traumas that occur when a person experiences
a blow to the head, a whiplash injury, or oxygen deprivation. TBIs are
neurological disorders that have a physical cause, and can affect functioning
such as memory, speech, motor abilities, and senses. PTSD is a psychological
disorder, and increases the risk of depression, physical injury, and substance
abuse. The stress associated with PTSD can cause physical damage, though.
Despite having different causes, TBIs and PTSD can look remarkably similar.
Both have social consequences and can cause mood swings, interrupted sleep,
and other physical symptoms. The symptoms manifest because of different
reasons, which is why it is important to make a correct diagnosis and
treat the true cause of the symptoms.
Many people who suffer from a TBI and people who suffer from PTSD experience
emotional changes. In TBI patients, these injuries often stem from damage
to the emotional centers of the brain. Damage to these parts of the brain
can cause emotions to vary wildly and change quickly. Damage to the frontal
lobes of the brain may also cause an individual to lack inhibition, and
often express anger. For PTSD sufferers, the changes in mood are related
to the trauma the person has experienced. Emotional changes in PTSD patients
often involve becoming more withdrawn, emotionally dulled, panicked or
anxious, and depressed. PTSD can also increase the likelihood of physical
aggression occurring when the patient is angered.
Depression can affect every aspect of life, which makes it a serious threat
to the daily functioning of people with TBIs and PTSD. It is not uncommon
for either condition to cause depression. People with brain injuries are
more likely than uninjured people to experience depression. Individuals
with PTSD commonly experience depression related to their trauma, though
it is often treatable with medication and therapy.
Anxiety is also a common symptom of both PTSD and TBI. It often manifests
differently between the two conditions, however. People with PTSD often
experience hypervigilance, jumpiness, panic, and/or stress. It may be
triggered by a specific event, or arise on its own. For TBI sufferers,
anxiety may cause them to feel stuck or unable to motivate themselves
to act. They may appear to be lazy or to not care, and often struggle
with initiating activities.
Sleep patterns are affected for both conditions as well. PTSD sufferers
often have a hard time sleeping due to stress, hypervigilance, nightmares,
and flashbacks. They may delay or avoid sleeping, or they may wake often
or experience less deep sleep. TBI patients often experience disruption
in their sleep patterns as well. It can be difficult for them to fall
asleep, stay asleep, or sleep long enough. Rest is critical when recovering
from a TBI, which makes it more difficult when receiving adequate sleep
Both PTSD and TBI patients can also experience a number of social changes.
Their social circles may shrink as the number of people they interact
with dwindles. TBI patients may exhibit erratic behavior or mood swings
that can make it difficult to interact. People with PTSD may feel too
anxious to interact with others or attend social gatherings, or they may
avoid leaving the house entirely. This social isolation can have negative
effects for people with either condition, and can leave them feeling depressed
With brain damage, substances such as alcohol, prescription medication,
and other drugs can have a different effect. TBI patients may be more
affected by alcohol or other substances after their injury. They may also
be at increased risk of seizures, negative interaction with medication,
or another brain injury. It isn’t uncommon for PTSD patients to
self-medicate with alcohol or drugs, but this can be dangerous. Using
substances to ease the pain and stress of PTSD can also affect memory,
thinking, and behavior.
PTSD and TBIs
While the stress of PTSD can cause physical damage to the body and brain,
TBIs cannot cause PTSD. It is possible that in individual who has sustained
a TBI also experienced PTSD after the incident that caused the injury.
The relationship between the two conditions can be close, but a TBI does
not cause PTSD. Patients with either should be tested for the other to
ensure all symptoms are treated correctly.
If you have suffered a traumatic brain injury, you deserve compensation. Our
Denver personal injury attorneys understand the difficulties you are facing, and have the experience you
need to help your case.
Contact Jordan Law to learn how we can help you or to schedule a