How to Cope With a Brain Injury

Four Parts:Improving Physical SkillsCoping with Emotional StrugglesForming New HabitsTaking Care of Yourself If You are a Care-Giver

Coping with a brain injury can be very difficult, both for the person who suffered the injury and for those who care about them. If you have suffered a brain injury you may have both physical and emotional challenges to deal with, both of which will probably require care from medical professionals.[1]

Part 1
Improving Physical Skills

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    Get physiotherapy. People who have suffered brain injuries often have weakness, stiffness, and reduced coordination afterwards. Depending upon your needs, the physiotherapist may prescribe:[2]
    • Exercises. This will help you regain movement and strength.
    • Manual therapy. During this technique the therapist moves parts of your body for you to help restore blood flow, flexibility, and reduce tension.
    • Aquatic therapy. This involves doing exercises in water. This can improve circulation, reduce discomfort, and help you to regain mobility through movements that you might not be able to do out of the water.[3]
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    See an occupational therapist to help you manage life independently. The goal of occupational therapy is to help you come up with solutions for things that are causing problems. There are several ways the therapist may approach problems you are facing:[4]
    • Finding alternative solutions such as shopping online when getting to the store is difficult.
    • Breaking down physically difficult activities and helping you practice until you master them.
    • Helping you make changes to your home like wheelchair ramps.
    • Providing advice about special equipment that could help you, such as specialized walking sticks.
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    Regain your communication skills with speech/language therapy. This can help people to improve their ability to use and understand language. Treatments can address:[5]
    • Helping people learn to make sounds and to produce speech
    • Improving reading and writing
    • Providing instruction on other ways to communicate besides spoken language, such as sign language

Part 2
Coping with Emotional Struggles

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    Try psychotherapy. Psychotherapy involves communicating with a trained medical professional who can help you understand your problems, worries, and deal with the emotions they create. You can find a therapist near you through a recommendation from your doctor or using the APA psychologist locator.[6] The therapy can be done one-on-one or with a partner or other family members. It is often done though talking, but if that is difficult, sometimes patients will communicate through:[7]
    • Art
    • Music
    • Movement
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    Use cognitive behavioral therapy to change how you think and react to situations. People coping with a brain injury often have difficulty controlling their emotions, mood swings, and problems dealing with anger. You can search online databases such as the APA psychologist locator to find a therapist near you.[8] Cognitive behavioral therapy may help you:[9][10]
    • Stop cycles of negative, self-defeating thoughts.
    • Break overwhelming problems down into smaller, more manageable parts.
    • Develop new habits of addressing things positively and proactively.
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    Get psychiatric treatment if necessary. Brain injuries and the stress of coping with them often produce severe depression and anxiety. A psychiatrist can prescribe medications and recommend other, complementary treatments like therapy. Your doctor may be able to recommend a psychiatrist who specializes in the type of injury you have. If you have these symptoms consider seeing a psychiatrist:[11]
    • Depression: feeling sad or worthless, sleep or appetite disturbances, lack of concentration, withdrawing from social contacts, apathy, exhaustion, or thoughts of death and suicide
    • Anxiety: fear or nervousness that is greater than the situation calls for, uncontrollable worrying, panic attacks, or post traumatic stress disorder
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    Join a support group. Search online or ask your doctor to recommend a group near you. A support group will:[12][13]
    • Provide emotional support for the things you are going through
    • Learn new coping strategies from others who are also experiencing similar things

Part 3
Forming New Habits

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    Cope with memory problems by writing things down. People with brain injuries may have difficulty accessing pre-injury memories and / or learning new things. By writing things down, you will have a record that you can refer to regularly:[14][15]
    • Keep track of your appointments on a calendar.
    • Write lists of your medications and put them in places where you will see them each day, like on the refrigerator or on the bathroom mirror.
    • Label the cupboards in your house to help you remember where to put things and where they are when you are looking for them.
    • Always carry your address and emergency phone numbers on you when you leave the house.
    • If you are prone to getting lost, have a friend or loved-one draw you a map of how to get to important destinations, like the bus stop or a store. Bring someone with you until you are confident that you can do it on your own.
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    Relearn basic skills by establishing a routine. This will help you minimize confusion and give you a sense of normalcy and control over your life. This can include:[16][17]
    • Keeping a regular sleep schedule.
    • Make a schedule of your daily activities which you can refer back to when you aren't sure what to next. Put it in a place where you will see it each morning.
    • Taking the same route back and forth to work or school.
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    Improve your concentration by minimizing distractions. People with brain injuries often have trouble focusing for long periods of time.
    • Do one thing at a time. This will help you keep your focus and minimize confusion.
    • Reduce distractions like background noise. This will help you concentrate and work more effectively.
    • Take breaks if you need them. This will help prevent you from getting tired and frustrated.
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    Learn to monitor how you are doing. You can develop self-checks, which are questions that you ask yourself to determine whether you are handling the challenges around you. Learn to ask yourself:[18]
    • If you understood everything in an important conversation.
    • If you have written down details that need to be remembered.
    • If you are doing what you are supposed to be doing. If you aren't sure, then give yourself time to check your schedule and correct the situation.
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    Be open with people in your work and personal life. By letting them know that you are recovering from a brain injury, they are likely to have an easier time being supportive and helpful to you. You may have difficulty controlling your emotions, causing you to be prone to intense emotional reactions which don't fit the situation, aggression, show a lack of emotion or have difficulty recognizing emotions in others, have reduced interest in sex or act inappropriately. You may need to relearn how to control your emotions by trying to:[19][20]
    • Recognize the physical symptoms of feeling emotional (like crying, shaking, tight feeling in the chest). If you need to, isolate yourself until you regain control.
    • Learn to express anger and frustration in acceptable ways, like writing it down, talking about it, or using a punching bag.
    • Observe how other people talk to each other and taking note when other people remind you to be polite.
    • Identify what other people might be feeling when they show emotions, like crying. If you are unsure, you might carefully ask them.
    • Discuss any insecurities you might have around sex due to your injury. If you experience an increased interest in sex, be careful not to pressure your partner. Attending a support group may help you relearn what is appropriate.

Part 4
Taking Care of Yourself If You are a Care-Giver

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    Maintain your health. You will be able to give better care if you are physically and psychologically healthy. There are several ways to safe-guard your health:
    • Take the time to get your regular doctor's check-ups.If you skip doctor’s appointments, any health condition you might have will probably be more complicated to treat when it is finally discovered.[21][22][23]
    • Eat a balanced, healthy diet. Sometimes it can be difficult to take the time to prepare and eat healthy food when you are absorbed in providing care. But it is important to eat healthy so you have the strength to continue providing care. Adults should aim to eat 4-5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day,[24], eat low-fat sources of proteins, such as lean meats, milk, fish, eggs, soy, beans, legumes, and nuts[25] and eat complex, high fiber carbohydrates like whole-grain breads. Though pre-processed, pre-packaged foods are often quick and easy, over the long-term they are bad for your health because they are generally high in fats, salt, and sugar.
    • Try to get at least 7 - 8 hours of sleep each night. Sleep deprivation will make you more vulnerable to the emotional and psychological stressors of being a care-giver.[26]
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    Develop good stress management skills. Care-givers often feel anxious and overwhelmed. Actively trying to manage your stress will help you cope.[27]
    • Buffer yourself from the stresses of care-giving with a supportive social network. Take the time to maintain close relationships with friends and family. Let them help you, if they can.[28]
    • Exercise regularly. Try to do at least 75-150 minutes of physical activity each week. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins which will lift your mood and help you relax.Many people walk, jog, swim, or join sports teams.
    • Set aside time to relax. There are many different relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, deep breathing, and visualizing calming images. You can try different ones until you find one you like.[29][30]
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    Join a support group or see a counselor. This will enable you to get support and advice from people who understand what you are going through. To find a counselor or support group you can:
    • Ask your doctor or the injured person's doctor for recommendations.
    • Search online under caregivers' organizations such as the Family Caregiver Alliance
    • Look through the government section of your local phone book to see what resources are available in your area

Sources and Citations

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Categories: Neurological Disorders