Coping with Post-TBI Anxiety & Stress

BrainLine
Brain Injury Anxiety and Stress

“Social engagements became opportunities for embarrassment and ridicule, causing Melissa terrible personal conflicts. She wanted to be out among the crowds, but simultaneously felt vulnerable and frightened by them. Melissa sank into long sulks and quiet withdrawals. The invitations stopped coming and the phone rarely rang,” writes author and TBI case manager Michael Paul Mason about Melissa Felteau who sustained a brain injury in a car crash.

Anxiety can come in many colors and textures following a brain injury. It can bubble up in crowded, noisy places. It can surface when there is too much quiet — when worries seem to snowball and there is no place to hide.

What exactly are anxiety and stress?

Following a life-changing event like a brain injury, it’s normal to feel intense stress. But sometimes stress can build up and lead to anxiety. The main symptoms of anxiety are fear and worry. In turn, anxiety can cause or go hand-in-hand with other problems including:

People can express anxiety in both emotional and physical ways — from being inordinately irritable to experiencing shortness of breath or feelings of panic. Anxiety becomes a significant concern when these feelings intensify to a point where they interfere with the tasks of life. Anxiety can also be a symptom or effect of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Treatment

Like depression, chronic anxiety can cause low self-esteem and poor quality of life, and without treatment, symptoms can last longer or return. Anxiety is usually treated with medication and/or psychotherapy (counseling) by a trained professional. Treatment is usually quite successful, so there is little reason to delay seeking help. Here are a few strategies that people with anxiety after TBI have suggested:

  • Share things that worry you with others.
  • Set up a routine for your day and try to stick with it.
  • Stay involved in life. Find activities that give you pleasure — ones you used to enjoy, or new ones.
  • Be open to the support of others. Healthy relationships with family and friends are healing.
  • Acknowledge your feelings, and then find ways to accept them. There is no shame in feeling anxious or depressed after a life-changing event like brain injury.

Learning from anxiety

Sometimes facing your darkest emotions, like anxiety and depression, can help you better understand yourself. Melissa Felteau started meditating to help combat her own anxiety and depression; she found a new clarity. “That was my biggest problem,” she says. “I realized that I was always comparing myself to my pre-injury self. I was trapped in a vicious cycle of rumination and depression.”

Six years after her injury, through meditation and mindfulness, Melissa was able to shed her anxiety and use what she had learned to help herself — and others.

Posted on BrainLine June 20, 2017.

Comments (6)

Thank you so much!!! Sharing your experience and ways to cope helps a lot. When you say you would compare yourself to your “pre injury self” is exactly what I think I’m doing as well as fearing the unknown..(what close friends/family now think of me, my condition and state of mind). It’s only been about two months after my 3 hour withdrawal seizure and I think I just need more time to heal as well as psychotherapy/counseling. Diet, exercise, cannabis and positive support is why I’ve been able to make such a speedy recovery so far. Lesson learned, don’t try to wean off of AED (vimpat) by yourself. Ask your neurologist first. Sadly, side effects of many AED’s can ruin your quality of life & mimic many post tbi symptoms. Another day, another battle. Keep fighting, have faith, be strong, never give up.

Did you have a 3 hour seizure and now you have anxiety?

As stated earlier, 3 years ago, I fell 10__12,ft breaking my arm and obviously hitting my head. There's a period I don't remember. Followed by months of episodic hallucinations , paranoid and delusional behavior. I'm a. 61 yr old male, DX with Pseudotumor cerebri secondary to West Nile. All I want to do is lie on the couch and watch TV. Any recommendations are greatly appreciated. Thanks James

always take this pill take that pill

all I got from my doctors was '' un-explained anxiety '', never talked to me about my concussion or TBI or anything. My whiplash yes, but never about how I felt in my head. 2 1/2 years now

The same for me. I had to really advocate for myself to find the right help. The best advice I got was...

"if you have a head injury, do not let anyone convince you that your symptoms are isolated. Head injuries are complicated and traumatic.