by James Heuer, PA
Most TBI patients do not suffer from anxiety prior to their injury. After a serious injury that affects your brain, you are bound to live in a constant state of fear that it will happen again. This fear can create anxiety in your daily life and activities.
Common symptoms of anxiety disorder may include extreme worry, shortness of breath, racing heartbeat, trouble sleeping, restlessness, and panic attacks, all of which are common symptoms that often coexist with a TBI. Experiencing these issues can make it extremely difficult to move on and attempt to heal.
Panic disorder causes a terror-like fear, making a person afraid to do daily tasks such as leave their house or use a vehicle. It is usually triggered by overstimulation of the brain. Panic attacks can often mimic a heart attacks with similar symptoms such as tightness in your chest, heart palpitations, and dizziness.
Phobias, which are fears of certain things or situations, sometimes develop after a TBI and may cause a fear of certain places or activities, such as driving or being a passenger in a car, especially if the TBI was caused by an automobile accident.
Obsessive compulsive disorder, OCD, is another kind of disorder that causes uncontrolled wants or feelings. An example would be someone who obsessively checks their car’s engine or brakes to make sure everything works properly, simply due to the irrational fear that something will fail and cause another accident. But some obsessions and compulsions can also have nothing to do with the TBI but may be more intense than the usual intrusive thoughts and cause major distress.
Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a type of anxiety where a person relives a traumatic event, such as a car accident, and experiences nightmares and flashbacks. About one in four people have a TBI and PTSD. If you experience a TBI and, as a result, suffer from PTSD, it is important to seek treatment immediately because flashbacks only get worse over time. Angry outbursts, insomnia, and emotional numbness from friends and family are other common side effects.
Be alert if any of these anxiety disorders arise in your life after a TBI and know that all of them are treatable through rewiring your thoughts. One successful method of doing this is with talk therapy, which is widely used in treating anxiety disorders. The basic idea is to identify your negative thoughts, what causes them, and train your brain to think differently.
Meditation and mindfulness are more creative and safer techniques being used instead of anti-anxiety prescription medications because pharmaceuticals can be more harmful than helpful to your injured brain.