Brain injury scan

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) can cause a range of mild to severe physical symptoms. But it can also lead to troubling emotional changes and other long-term effects. Fortunately, many of these emotional effects improve over time if patients get the appropriate treatment.

Here is a breakdown of some of the most common emotional changes TBI victims experience.

Top 5 Emotional Changes After a Traumatic Brain Injury

Difficulty Controlling Emotions

  • Some people with concussions and other TBIs have trouble controlling their emotions. They may experience:
  • Sudden, brief episodes of anger or other emotions
  • A rapid change of emotions, such as quickly going from happy to sad to mad
  • Uncontrollable laughter or crying

According to the University of Washington’s Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center (MSKTC), difficulties with emotions and mood swings after a TBI typically occurs due to damage to the area of the brain that controls emotion and behavior.


It’s normal for people who suffer a TBI to experience feelings of sadness, frustration, and despair. But if these feelings persist and begin to overwhelm someone or prevent them from recovering, they might be suffering from depression. Common symptoms of depression include:

  • Feelings of sadness and worthlessness
  • Withdrawal
  • Insomnia
  • Changes in appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of interest in normally pleasurable activities
  • Suicidal ideation

According to MSKTC, around half of all individuals with TBIs experience depression within the first year after injury. Two-thirds of all TBI victims experience depression within seven years of injury, showing that depression is a common, long-term issue for many TBI patients. Those suffering from depression should seek help from a mental health professional as soon as possible.


Anxiety is another common mental health condition stemming from traumatic brain injuries. TBI victims with anxiety might feel nervous without understanding the cause. Symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Inability to relax and stop worrying
  • Insomnia
  • Racing heart
  • Sweating and shaking
  • Rapid breathing (hyperventilation)

Some patients with TBIs may experience situational anxiety triggered by large crowds or when feeling rushed by others. Others suffer from panic attacks — a sudden episode of anxiety and fear that can cause physical symptoms, such as shortness of breath and rapid heartbeat.

Adjusting to Medications

Many people who experience emotional problems after a brain injury benefits from medication. However, patients should only take medication for psychological conditions caused by a TBI under the guidance of a psychiatrist or other medical provider. When adjusting to a new medication, there are several things patients should know:

  • Patients may not feel the benefits of some medications immediately.
  • Patients may have to try different doses to determine the most effective dose.
  • Some patients might have to try multiple medications to find out which one works best for them.
  • Patients should never stop taking the medication without speaking to their healthcare provider first.

Social Struggles

Many people also struggle with social interactions after a TBI. Problems with social skills can be more difficult to manage when a person experiences mood swings or unpredictable emotional episodes. According to the MSKTC, some of the everyday social struggles that people face after suffering a TBI include:

  • Feeling out of place in social situations
  • Inability to stay focused during conversations
  • Difficulty remembering what someone said
  • Misinterpreting social cues
  • Struggling to get along with others
  • Difficulty starting or maintaining conversations

Social skills often improve with time after a TBI. Working with a psychologist or mental health professional can benefit people facing social struggles due to a brain injury.

Getting Treatment and Living with a TBI

If you sustained a TBI that led to emotional changes, treatment options are available to help you cope with your condition and improve your symptoms. Medication, counseling, or a combination of both are often effective in treating changes to emotions after a traumatic brain injury. Many patients benefit from stress-reduction and relaxation techniques, sticking to a structured daily routine, and attending support groups. Local BIAA chapters also offer resources for people living with TBIs and their family members.

If you suffered a traumatic brain injury and someone else is to blame, you could be entitled to compensation. Contact Silkman Law Firm Injury & Accident Lawyer today for a free consultation with a TBI lawyer in Phoenix.