Following a brain injury, personality changes can be the most challenging symptom for individuals, partners, and families to accept. It is common to hear that the brain-injury survivor is just not the same person anymore.
An explanation for this exists. Often, the complexity of our brain gets overlooked.
The brain is made up of a delicate network of neurons and supporting cells, which are responsible for shaping a person’s personality. Damage to specific areas of the brain–including the frontal and temporal lobes, hippocampus, and amygdala–may result in the following personality changes:
- Difficulty managing emotions
- Flat affect
- Cognitive impairments
- Physical aggression
These changes may be subtle or overt, and just one of these changes can have lasting consequences for both the individual and partner.
Let’s see how these changes affected Mark and Kathy. Does their story sound familiar to you?
Mark and Kathy have been together nine years. Mark was an extrovert who loved being around friends and family. He was often referred to as the life of the party. Kathy delighted in how much empathy and compassion Mark had with her. They enjoyed exploring new restaurants and listening to live music. They were best friends, shared the same sense of humor, and communicated effortlessly. They both loved to travel, took two or three vacations a year, and had dreams of future travel adventures together.
Then, the unexpected happened. Mark fell and hit his head five years ago, suffering a traumatic brain injury. Both Mark and Kathy faced sudden losses and changes that have forever altered their relationship.
For Mark, his many personality changes included:
- Brain fog
- Mood changes
- Social withdrawal
- Difficulty identifying his feelings
- Lack of empathy
Kathy still struggles with accepting these changes, but she and Mark are being called to know each other again in the following ways:
- Learning to communicate
- Connecting emotionally
- Becoming sexually intimate
- Creating a social life
Rebuilding their life took time, energy, dedication, and a plan.
- Identified a new vision
- Focused on strengths in each of them
- Clarified their goals and visions
- Journaled every day, focusing on their new visions and the individual changes each had to make
- Appreciated and focused on small gains each day
With a new vision, it’s possible to get to know each other again and have a loving and satisfying relationship. The person you fell in love with is still there. You just need to find them.
If you are a therapist or health care professional, challenge your couple to try what Mark and Kathy did. If you are a couple, challenge yourselves to follow the steps above.
Supporting all of you,