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What are differences between TBI and PTSD?

Karns & Kerrison

It is not uncommon for traumatic brain injury and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to be comingled in the minds of many Rhode Islanders. However, while the two seem similar or at times even identical, a person suffering from traumatic brain injury is not always exhibiting PTSD. According to, there are key differences between the two.

To start off with, PTSD and TBI sufferers differ when it comes to memory issues. Traumatic brain injury can often result in forms of amnesia. With retrograde amnesia, a person will not remember what occurred shortly before the trauma happened, or, with anterograde amnesia, remember what happened shortly after. Depending on the extent of the brain injury, a person may lose minutes, hours, or even weeks. PTSD sufferers, by contrast, recall their traumatic event in vivid detail. Such memories resurface again and again at any time of the day or the evening.

Fatigue is common to both TBI and PTSD, but more so with PTSD. Traumatic brain injuries commonly result in cognitive fatigue, when a person experiences trouble learning and thinking. The person often has to take naps during the day to rest the mind and restore mental alertness. PTSD symptoms, however, interfere so much with sleep that the victim experiences cognitive, physical and emotional fatigue. The result is short tempers, impaired concentration and escalating behaviors.

Victims of TBI and PTSD will also largely differ on how they talk about their respective traumas. Brain injury victims might constantly retell their experience to anybody that listens to them. This kind of repetitive behavior can sometimes indicate memory impairment, as the person is not aware that he or she has already told the story before. PTSD sufferers, on the other hand, will often avoid talking about their experience at all. This is particularly the case for veterans of military combat.

Finally, people with TBI or PTSD can both experience anxiety, but in different ways. Brain injury victims will often act as if nothing is wrong with them, but may also act laxidasical, as if nothing matters to them. Brain injuries can impede the body’s ability to initiate actions and activities. PTSD, however, can cause people to be overcome with stress and panic, making it hard to act, reason or think.

This article is intended to educate readers about brain injuries and should not be taken as legal advice.


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If you or your loved one suffered severe, life-altering injuries due to someone else’s negligence, we are here to help you fight for justice. For answers to your questions or to schedule a free consultation, contact our personal injury team at (888) 281-3100. We offer our legal services on a contingency fee basis, meaning you only pay attorneys’ fees after we have recovered compensation on your behalf.

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