Brain Injuries, Personality Changes and Motorcycle Accidents An unfortunate and common symptom from a traumatic brain injury following an auto or motorcycle accident are personality changes. I have represented many clients over the years with these types of injuries and they can have a substantial effect on one’s life and relationships with others.
“Organic” personality changes are the most common physically based psychiatric sequelae of moderate or severe head trauma. Mild head injury (post concussion syndrome) may alter personality in the direction of affective instability, poor impulse control, apathy, or other changes. Severe outbursts of aggression or rage are found only in the earliest, confusional stages of mild head injury and generally resolve within the first two or three weeks of recovery.
A characteristic apathy often persists longer and may be marked by a distinct lack of motivation and initiative.
Although the cognitive impairment that may accompany post concussive syndrome is usually fairly mild, it is usually detectable with a careful and detailed mental status examination and neuropsychological testing. Because of the limitations of imaging techniques or other electrophysiologic methods used for diagnosis, it may not always be possible to attribute the underlying pathology to a specific area of the brain. When the clinician is convinced that the disorder represents a marked decrement in personality functioning from a higher level of adaptation, she of course may rely upon her clinical judgment and conclude that, for example, damage to the anterior frontal lobes is responsible for the personality change.
The clinician is continually faced with the question as to whether or not an identifiable trauma has been responsible for a personality change. There is no completely satisfactory answer in most cases: much depends upon the art of diagnosis, ”a clinical feel” for organically based mental disorders, which is difficult to quantify or even to explain but which characterizes the experienced and intuitive physician .
While the process by which an experienced and intuitive physician diagnoses a neuropsychiatric disorder may not seem like “hard evidence,” it is how experienced doctors proceed in evaluating patients’ complaints. If a loved one has been in an accident and you notice marked personality differences, have your doctor take a closer look. It may been evidence of something more serious than simple “moodiness”.
If you or a loved one has suffered a serious injury, call me now at 916.921.6400.
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