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Traumatic Brain Injury - Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Karns & Kerrison

Traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder are not mutually exclusive. A person suffering a traumatic brain injury can also suffer post-traumatic stress disorder whereby they relive the fear of the event, suffer nightmares and suffer continuing recurring problems. Victims of accidents that do not suffer a loss of consciousness or an extended period of unconsciousness can experience simultaneous post-traumatic stress disorder due to the events that cause the injury.

If the injury is caused by a severe or prolonged loss of consciousness that immediately occurs and extends for a period of time including coma then post-traumatic stress disorder is not likely as much of the event will not be remembered.

However, as widely accepted in medicine, a traumatic brain injury can occur when traumatically induced physiological disruption of brain function occurs including a brief period of loss of consciousness, any loss of memory for events immediately before or after the accident, any alteration in mental state such as being dazed, or any transient neurological deficit not including a lengthy loss of consciousness. Clearly suffering one of these disruptions is enough. Clearly there is no necessity of having any loss of consciousness at all.

Therefore, it is possible that traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder can coexist as in these cases there was no lengthy loss of consciousness and therefore the memory of the fear of the incident is preserved creating the post-traumatic stress disorder.

Studies done by the Veterans Administration indicate that soldiers returning from war clearly show that blast injuries not causing a loss of consciousness cause traumatic brain injury that coexists with post-traumatic stress disorder whereby the horrors of war and the blast are relived and soldiers are suffering severe symptoms including nightmares.

Post-traumatic stress disorder can develop following a traumatic event that threatens your life or makes you feel helpless. Symptoms can include the following:

  • Re-Experiencing the traumatic event in the form of upsetting memories, flashbacks, or nightmares
  • Avoiding reminders of the trauma, including avoiding activities, places or thoughts that remind you of the trauma causing a severe feeling of detachment.
  • Increased anxiety and emotional arousal including difficulty sleeping, irritability without outburst of anger, difficulty concentrating, being hyper vigilant or being easily startled.

If the cause of the injuries such as an automobile accident does not cause a prolonged loss of consciousness or does not even cause a loss of consciousness, a traumatic brain injury can still occur and in these cases post-traumatic stress disorder can occur as the incident and resulting injuries are easily made part of the memory. Therefore, the incident is relived and post-traumatic stress disorder can occur.

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