How Brain Trauma Can Harm Physical, Mental, and Behavioral Health

How Brain Trauma Can Harm Physical, Mental, and Behavioral Health

By Thrive Wellness Waco Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Marguerite “Peggy” Addison, APRN, PMHNP-BC 

From heading a soccer ball too forcefully to experiencing a motor vehicle accident, occurrences that can induce head trauma can range from seemingly harmless to violent and dangerous. Even if a head injury seems mild, brain damage can still occur. If repetitive or severe, brain injuries can lead to serious mental, behavioral, and physical health consequences. 

DEFINING TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURIES (TBIs) AND CHRONIC TRAUMATIC ENCEPHALOPATHY (CTE)

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) describes damage to the brain from an impact or object. TBIs can be caused by:

  • Accidentally hitting one’s head, such as on a cabinet, window, or door frame
  • Assaults and domestic violence 
  • Blows to the head 
  • Falls
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Shaking 
  • Sports injuries 

About 1.7 million people in the United States suffer a traumatic brain injury (TBI) every year, and 64,000 Americans die from a TBI annually. Many individuals recover from TBIs, but many also suffer prolonged physical, mental, and behavioral health repercussions that can be debilitating. 

Of those who have suffered repeated mild TBIs, at least 17% result in chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which is a degenerative brain disease that often appears years after experiencing repetitive head trauma.

When the brain sustains trauma the following medical complications can occur:

  • Axonal shearing: Torn or stretched nerve axons, which are fibers that extend from neurons in the brain and help with sensory perception and movement. 
  • Bruising: Bleeding and swelling in the brain near the injury.  
  • Focal damage: A localized injury to the brain that can lead to inflammation which can cut off oxygen to neurons and cause them to die.
  • Hematomas: Clotted blood that can form in the brain due to broken blood vessels.

THE IMPACT OF BRAIN TRAUMA ON PHYSICAL, MENTAL, AND BEHAVIORAL HEALTH 

Brain injuries ranging from mild to severe can cause acute and long-term physical, mental, and behavioral health concerns, such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Changes in sleep and energy levels
  • Decline in ability to read social cues
  • Decreased executive functioning, which comprises mental skills such as memory, flexible thinking, and self-control
  • Depression
  • Impaired concentration
  • Unstable mood, or rapid, exaggerated shifts in emotion
  • Memory issues, both acute and long-term
  • Personality changes, such as displaying more anger than usual
  • Struggle to maintain relationships
  • Unusual and impulsive behavior

In my own experience treating clients with brain trauma, I’ve encountered:

  • A father who suffered irreversible brain damage from a motorcycle accident and was unable to consider any thoughts other than simple concerns such as the next snack he’d eat. 
  • Individuals who sustained brain damage from sports, such as water skiing and football. These clients spent months in residential treatment stabilizing their mood and rehabilitating their cognitive functioning. 
  • Clients who used drugs and alcohol to cope with their TBIs and associated mood dysregulation.
  • Individuals who changed their occupation because they were no longer able to perform their job duties due to decreased executive-functioning. 

SUPPORT FOR BRAIN TRAUMA CONCERNS

For anyone struggling with residual mental, behavioral, and physical health after experiencing a head injury, professional support can help a person regain as much as possible of their pre-injury level of functioning. Types of help available include:

  • Counseling: Trained therapists can help clients develop skills for coping with the distress of an injury, helping them leverage their strengths and work around any deficits.  
  • Psychiatric care: Psychiatrists can prescribe medications to assist with mood regulation, promote cognition, and diminish impulsivity. They may also integrate cognitive enhancing therapies to slow cognitive decline.
  • Occupational therapy: Occupational therapists can use a variety of strategies to help a person carry out daily activities that a brain injury may be interfering with. 
  • Medical care: Physicians can help monitor the brain injury and promote healing while providing medical guidance.

Lastly, it’s not always possible to avoid sustaining head injuries, but there are ways to reduce one’s likelihood of experiencing a TBI, such as wearing seatbelts and helmets as well as taking measures to avoid falls and motor vehicle accidents. 

INTERDISCIPLINARY HEALTH CARE AT THRIVE WELLNESS

At Thrive Wellness, we strive to treat our clients’ physical, mental, and behavioral health care concerns synergistically. Because most health care struggles have consequences that extend to many facets of health, including brain injuries, our interdisciplinary clinicians collaborate to provide specialized, comprehensive care so that individuals can ultimately achieve whole-self health — or wellness that permeates their mind, body, and spirit. Reach out to learn more.

While all Thrive Wellness locations offer interdisciplinary clinical teams who collaborate to treat eating disorders, perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs), and additional mental and behavioral health conditions, programs and services may vary by location.

About the Author

Thrive Wellness Waco Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Marguerite “Peggy” Addison, APRN, PMHNP-BC

Peggy is an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse, Family Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, MSN, and is Board Certified through the American Nurses Credentialing Center to treat all ages.

She received her RN from McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana and her Masters in Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing from The University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) where she received multiple clinical excellence awards, was a member of Sigma Theta Tau Honorary Society, and was named a “University Scholar”.

Peggy has 14 years of experience as a PMH-NP treating multiple diagnoses, specializing in anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia, with a special interest in perinatal psychiatry and eating disorders. Prior to becoming an NP, she had 16 years of in-patient psychiatric experience as an RN working in adolescent and adult psychiatry, alcohol, and addiction units, including six and a half years as head nurse on the psychiatric intensive care unit at The Methodist Hospital in Houston.

She is a member of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association, American Nurses Association, Texas Nurses Association, Texas Nurse Practitioners of North Texas, Texas Nurse Practitioners, Postpartum Support International, International Association of Eating Disorders Professionals, and the Neuroscience Education Institute.

Peggy has been a preceptor/ graduate clinical instructor for UTA since 2009 and formerly an undergraduate clinical instructor for Texas Woman’s University from 2009-2011.

Peggy works collaboratively to diagnose and treat mental health disorders and emphasizes a comprehensive approach of healthy lifestyle changes along with therapy to reach optimal functioning.

When not working she enjoys time with family, travel, reading, needlework, and water activities.