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Brain injuries, mood swings and personality changes

One of the potential long-term impacts of a brain injury is a change to your personality. It may never change back. Even after the brain has physically healed, you may seem different to friends and family members.

The reality is that healing is not always as complete and perfect as you want it to be. You may see this in other areas, as well. A back injury heals, but you always have slight back pain and can't do as much as you did before. A knee injury heals, but you always know when the barometer drops because it starts to hurt.

The difference is that a brain injury can change your very personality, which can be harder for you and your loved ones to deal with. You need to understand this challenge and what it may mean for your life.

Specific changes

Loved ones often mention that personality changes make a person more irritable or angry. They used to be so happy and laid-back, but now they lash out at everyone around them.

This is because injuries to some parts of your brain, such as the hippocampus, the amygdala and the temporal and frontal lobes, can make you:

  • Feel more easily agitated
  • Act in a physically aggressive manner
  • Become verbally aggressive
  • Have volatile emotions
  • Suffer from impaired impulse control
  • Deal with dramatic memory impairment

You know you shouldn't act this way, but your impulses suddenly feel too strong to overcome. You may lash out at family members for small things that really don't warrant that reaction, and you may even feel bad and apologize later, but you'll still do it again. Due to the damage to your brain, you literally do not have the control that you did before the incident.

Mood swings

In some cases, these personality changes take the form of mood swings. Half the time, you act like your old self, but then you quickly change into "someone else" when something sets you off.

This can make your family members feel like they are walking on eggshells. They never know what to expect. Are you going to be the happy, fun-loving person whom they knew for years, or are you going to blow up and get angry for no reason? When something minor goes wrong at work, do your co-workers know if you're going to become furious or just shrug it off?

Your rights

You may not even know how you're going to react, and it's frustrating. These changes are not your fault. They're not what you want. If you suffered the initial injury due to someone else's negligence -- in a car accident, for example -- then you need to know what rights you have to compensation.

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