Abramson Smith Waldsmith LLP

Personality: Feeling like a new person after a brain injury

You hit your head in the car crash, and it left you with a brain injury. You thought you were recovering well, but people have said you don't act like yourself. What happened, and it is reversible?

Changes in personality are common among those with brain injuries. Referred to as "Jekyll and Hyde syndrome" by some, brain injuries sometimes result in pronounced, or subtle, changes in personality. Damage to the brain, especially the frontal and temporal lobes, hippocampus or amygdala, could result in personality changes that cause aggression, verbal attacks, problems with memory or impaired impulse control.

What does a personality change mean for a brain injury survivor?

While some changes can be minor or temporary, like a change to your vocal accent or memory loss, others affect your life significantly. Significant memory loss, the loss of control associated with impaired impulse control and sudden physical aggression could cause a person to become prone to fighting or risk-taking behaviors. Some people suffer from executive function losses, which means you may not be able to self-monitor your behaviors or get along with others. Behavioral outbursts could become common, leading to trouble at work or home.

What psychiatric conditions do brain injuries result in?

No two cases are identical, but brain injuries potentially cause psychiatric issues such as severe anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. Depending on the type of injury suffered, the brain may no longer produce the correct amount of chemicals needed to maintain moods or to help regulate thoughts. Neurotransmitters that influence moods or thoughts may function incorrectly, leading to emotional outbursts and other consequences.

Brain injuries affect you directly, but those around you may notice differences that you don't. If you think you have personality changes associated with your injury, it's important to get the right medical care.

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