Part 1, Part 2
Many people in the UK are admitted to or treated at hospital every year following accidents.
Often these accidents have involved or included a traumatic head injury to with or without short periods of impaired consciousness.
In many cases people are discharged following examination. They are given information leaflets about watching out for further physical symptoms of concussion developing.
In other cases there are physical injuries to other parts of the body as well. These injuries may have had to be treated first. Patients are given information about head injury symptoms and are sent home.
In most cases these patients will be fine after a few weeks post-discharge and any residual head injury symptoms related to the head injury will have resolved. These head injury symptoms are often called ‘post-concussion syndrome’ when they persist for longer than would be expected.
Of course if you are the person with a minor head injury you can experience these symptoms as more than minor.
It would really help if you and your partner/spouse inform yourself about what can be expected. Ideally you would have her/his support!
Here are the most common symptoms following a head injury:
All enough to cause you to feel depressed and anxious.
Your partner might comment that you are different than you were before the accident. She/he may claim that you are irritable more often, losing your temper or being impulsive.
You might want to argue about this, because you don't think you have changed that much! You get irritated by all the fuss and you just want to get back to work and get on with your life.
As a partner or spouse of someone with post-concussive syndrome following a minor head injury, you might wonder why your partner doesn't appear to see that their behaviour has changed. He/she seems to take your observations personally. It might feel that you are not living with the person you knew before the accident.
Your reaction to what has happened depends to some extend on what your relationship/marriage was like before you partner had the accident.
If you can identify yourselves in all of this then it might help to know that this is quite normal for someone with post-concussive symptoms. The brain has had a disruption of its’ network and things are not quite working like they used to.
The good new is that in the majority of cases with a mild brain injury that after a few months you both might notice that things are settling down. The brain starts to reorganise its’ network a bit.
However, it is probably best to avoid the temptation to return to work in the first few weeks. There may be a price to pay in terms of fatigue. Because your brain is still recovering, it requires more effort to do things that you used to take for granted.
Needless to say if you are both living with these sorts of symptoms for a significant period of time it may put strains upon your relationship and in some cases it might be advisable to speak to a counsellor who understands minor head injury and post-concussive syndrome.
I have been a working therapist for 22 years. The last 5 years I have been working with couples where one partner has experienced a brain injury. I have helped couples to understand the effects of brain injury and the impact it has on their relationship.
I am also a trained psychosexual therapist. I can help when the sexual side of your relationship has been affected by the symptoms of brain injury.
We can work together to help you both find ways of reducing the impact the post-concussive syndrome. Your relationship will be hugely helped by my expert advice on better strategies for communication under these challenging circumstances.
Imagine what it would be like to experience the relief of talking to someone who understands this condition! Together we can make progress in dealing with something that has turned your world upside down.
Headway, the Brain Injury Association, suggests that if these symptoms persist for more than two weeks then you and your partner should consult your GP. It may be a good idea to take Headway’s downloadable 'Minor head injury discharge advice' factsheet with you.
If these post-concussive symptoms persist for a significant period of time then you may be referred to a head injury specialist, such as a neurologist or a neuropsychologist for further examination.
If you are suffering from prolonged symptoms or you have had a more severe head injury, you may also require traumatic brain injury rehabilitation. This specialist rehabilitation treatment will help you relearn memory or thinking skills. It can also help you to develop effective strategies to compensate for lost skills.
Counselling and other forms of psychological support such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy should also be a part of an overall approach to helping you with brain injury rehabilitation. The emotional side of your recovery is very important too.
In the next section I have included some suggestions about Relationship Survival Skills following minor brain injury and post-concussive syndrome.
Part 1, Part 2
The Brain Injury Association of America
The Brain Injury Association of Canada
The Brain Injury Association of Australia
The Brain Injury Association of New Zealand
Journal of neurology, neurosurgery and psychiatry: 1 year outcome in mild to moderate head injury
DMSO.org for an alternative way to treat head injury
Image courtesy of: Nina Matthews Photography