Dealing With Brain Injury Anger
If you’ve suffered from a traumatic brain injury, it’s possible you have since experienced mood swings or difficulty controlling your emotions. This could be because the part of your brain that regulates emotions was damaged, or it could be directly related to the aftermath of the injury itself: feelings of dissatisfaction with your physical or mental condition, frustration at a lack of independence, pain, etc.
Most people know and accept that brain injuries can affect memories and emotions, but that doesn’t make it easier for them to witness themselves or their loved ones turn into someone else. While a brain injury may not be totally reversible, it is possible to manage mood swings as a result of brain damage.
Different Kinds of Anger
First, it’s important to understand what sort of anger you’re dealing with. Feelings of depression or frustration that weren’t the direct result of damage to a part of your brain aren’t necessarily a permanent issue.
On the other hand, damage to the hypothalamus, the area of the brain responsible for regulating emotions, memory, and learning, among other things, can result in something called impulsive anger. It’s harder for someone who suffers from impulsive anger to keep their emotions in check, becoming irritated more easily and more prone to outbursts even if they were a perfectly calm person prior to the injury.
Understand New Triggers and Recognize Warning Signs
When you’ve determined what sort of anger you’re experiencing, you will need to spend time reacquainting yourself with the things that set you off. For example, perhaps loud chewing never warranted a reaction before, but now it sets your teeth on edge. Or, maybe your memory was affected and you get frustrated when you can’t recall things as quickly as before. Alcohol can even have a completely different effect on someone who has suffered from a brain injury.
In short, it’s imperative that you figure out what makes you angry so you can learn to recognize warning signs and deal with triggers accordingly.
A Strong Support System
Those with anger problems as a result of brain injury will quickly find that their greatest asset is a strong support system. Friends and family who are sympathetic to the situation and are willing to be patient and compassionate are invaluable while you’re recovering.
Surround yourself with people who will be conducive to your recovery process. They should be quick to reassure or distract you when necessary, or even give you space if the situation warrants it.
A solid self-calming strategy is a great weapon against angry outbursts. Impulsive anger is unavoidable, but it’s still possible to back off, walk away, and calm down. To calm yourself, you may try:
- Deep breathing
- Soft music
Before you return to the situation, take a moment to consider if you need to apologize to anyone or explain your outburst. Although your emotions aren’t in your control, the aftermath can be. Nurture healthy relationships despite your injury.
Half the battle often involves prevention, so don’t be afraid to avoid needlessly stressful situations, at least until you get a better hold on your emotions.
Of course, there are numerous medications that can help you control your anger. Consult with your physician to find out if medication or even therapy would benefit you. If you are prescribed a medication, always follow up with your doctor to keep him or her updated on your condition and how you’re responding to treatment.
Anger problems as a result of a brain injury can be life-changing, but they can be dealt with. After an adjustment period, you can be in control again with the right help, whether that be a strong support system or medical treatment.