TBI Myths & Facts

The Center on Brain Injury Research & Training
TBI Myths & Facts

Brain injury isn't like other "conditions" or "injuries." The severity and effects depend on many things such as:

  • how old the person was at injury
  • what part of the brain was injured
  • how severe the injury was

Everyone's brain injury is different and the recovery patterns are too. Getting our facts straight is a crucial first step in moving toward the best possible outcomes.

Let's get our Facts Straight

Myth: Knowing which parts of the brain have been injured will tell you the specific challenges to expect.

By knowing the location of the injury to the brain, you may have some indication of the problems to expect but not to the point of being able to predict specifically what lies ahead. Injury to brain tissue may be much more extensive than just at the site of injury. Every response to brain injury is different.

Fact: With support, many people can change their behavior after a brain injury.

With proper support and therapeutic intervention, many people with brain injury have the ability to change their behavior, learn new things, and lead full and productive lives.

Fact: Many families report that the most challenging problems after brain injury are problems with cognition (learning and thinking) and behavior (emotions and actions).

Cognitive and behavioral problems tend to present the most challenges for families. The good news is that most of these problems can be addressed. You can find many types of support in this website.

Myth: The best way to help a person with brain injury is to assist them with tasks.

As a parent, sibling or spouse of an adult with brain injury, general wisdom suggests that you be there to assist when needed, but avoid offering assistance for activities that can be done independently. Overriding your family member’s efforts (such as jumping in to finish sentences or tasks) lessens a personal sense of dignity, respect and self-worth.

Myth: After a brain injury, a person’s basic emotional needs change.

People with brain injury have the same emotional needs as every other person: to feel loved, to feel useful, to feel needed, to be treated with respect and to exercise control over their lives.

Fact: Personality traits can intensify (become stronger) after a brain injury.

A mild mannered person may tend to become more mild mannered. An aggressive personality may tend to become more difficult and more aggressive after brain injury.

Fact: It is best for a person with a brain injury to be part of any discussion about his or her treatment, care or prognosis even if it will be upsetting.

There is general wisdom that even the most difficult or troubling information should be shared with an adult with a brain injury. Many believe that an adult with a brain injury needs to be a part of EVERY discussion concerning his or her care, treatment, or any plans to help solve personal challenges.

Myth: Most recoveries for brain injury show steady improvement up until 2 years when recovery is complete.

One should expect that there will be inconsistency during the recovery period. A person with a brain injury may be able to do something easily one day, then find the same thing difficult the next day. Although much of the recovery process occurs during the first two years, it is not necessarily complete in 2 years. Recovery can continue throughout a lifetime.

Fact: The amount of time the person with a brain injury remains in a coma is one of the factors that affects recovery.

The amount of time in a coma is one of many factors that will affect recovery. Other factors are

  • severity of the injury,
  • where in the brain the injury is located,
  • early patterns of recovery,
  • length of time a person is very confused or experiences amnesia,
  • other injuries to the body, and
  • the level of health before the injury.

Myth: It is helpful to tell your family member with brain injury that life will return to normal.

It is generally believed that one should not make promises about everything going back to what it was. Every recovery is different and only time will tell what the level of recovery will be. It is more likely that life will have a “new normal”.

Learn Something New

There is always something new to learn about brain injury. The Center on Brain Injury Research & Training provides updated information and useful trainings to help you improve your skills to support someone with a brain injury.
Visit cbirt.org for additional help and resources >

Posted on BrainLine October 22, 2015.

Comments (6)

Please remember, we are not able to give medical or legal advice. If you have medical concerns, please consult your doctor. All posted comments are the views and opinions of the poster only.

I agree with most of this, except I was very mild mannered before - nothing upset me, but now I get agitated at the slightest things & I can't control it

Your not alone, that's a FACT.

I'm glad biofeedback works for some. It didn't work for me. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people out there making claims that aren't true, so my advice is to stick with things people you know personally, or people your case manager or whoever else you trust, have seen results from. Otherwise you can put yourself through hell and spend a lot of money and have nothing to show for it.  EMDR is really helpful for some people with PTSD and it does work - only my brain injury won't tolerate it.

One word. . Neurofeedback!!! Fixed my TBIs twice!!!!

I think that you should emphasize the fact that severely affected injured patients require more sleep than "normal" individuals. And sleep disturbances are very common and last for years after a brain injury.

Insightful. My only adjustment would be to rail a bit harsher about normal. No one goes back absolutely. The degree of difference is the measure we have.