What Is Emotional Flooding?

What Is Emotional Flooding?

Can TBI be confused with being bipolar? My teenage daughter broke her neck in a bad car wreck. Afterwards, she would have spells of uncontrollable crying. She went to our family doctor who told her she was bipolar and put her on meds. They are not really helping her much.


I am assuming your daughter sustained a brain injury during the motor vehicle accident that also resulted in her broken neck. If she has not had a comprehensive neuropsychological evaluation, I would recommend that she have one to determine the extent of her brain injury and its impact on her neurocognitive and or neurobehavioral abilities.

Neurocognitive issues after a brain injury can effect a person’s emotions, behavior, and cognitive function. Post-traumatic reactions can occur independent of the brain injury and can affect mood and behavior. It is important to note that these are not mutually exclusive. After a TBI, people can experience both neurocognitive and psychological symptoms. When the brain is healing, it needs rest. Engaging in activities or being stimulated past the point of fatigue can result in emotional flooding. For some people, this can manifest as crying spells. Making sure to rest and take breaks will help prevent or at least lessen the intensity of these episodes of emotional flooding. A neuropsychologist can help your daughter develop coping skills.

Posted on BrainLine April 12, 2013.

Comments (34)

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 was in a car accident in 2018 and diagnosed with a “mild concussion”. It is 2022 now and my recovery has been very slow and difficult. I was a medical professional but have not been able to work. I tried to for months after my injury but my TBI made me to unpredictable and emotional. It has changed my life 100%. It is hard to believe how little anyone medical understands head injuries. From the emergency department MD’s to an MD that was supposed to have some expertise in concussions from sports, to a neurologist, a neuropsychologist, a nurse practitioner who specializes in mental health, and primary care providers. None of them understood, and none of them evaluated me well enough to understand how the head injury had affected me. The “treatment” I have received from the medical community has been more traumatic (by far) than it has helped. I have gone through evaluations because my lawyer wanted me to, but he has not helped me either.
What I would suggest to anyone with a head injury is try to get someone who is close to you to be your advocate. You need someone you can trust and someone you live with would be best. Then they need to read everything on this website. All the comments from people with head injuries, and all the articles. They need to learn as much as possible. And they need to kind of understand the medical aspect. Then you need them to keep track of everything for you. Keeping a diary of some type. It cannot be up to the person with the TBI because you will forget everything. They have to check in with you frequently. You have to be very honest with them, do not try to make things sound better than they are. They need to go with you to your appointments, and help explain what you are having trouble with. Both of you should write things down. You should write how you are feeling and send a copy to them. I started so many things but then forgot completely what I had done, so I had multiple notes in multiple places. I had seen this website but then forgot about it for a year or more.
Then the two of you need to search for current information. Look for books to help you, things like “How to recover from a head injury”. There are a few books that go through things that you can do to help you recover. I found one on Amazon and bought the electronic version, but then I forgot about it for two years. So buy a paper one, an actual book, so it’s presence will remind you to use it.
Look for suggestions on what supplements might be helpful for you. I think this is what actually helped me the most.
I also spent a lot of time in nature. Quiet and by myself. I got a lot of exercise doing gardening types of activities. Nothing I had to keep track of, and just kind of floated from one thing to the next, do what you feel like at the moment. Stay very well hydrated though! You cannot forget to drink! There are watches that can be set to remind you to drink every 30 minutes. Set reminders for everything.
If your brain feels overwhelmed with anything stop doing it and rest.
I am running low on battery so I have to stop.
Be patient with yourself.

Good day, I have suffered a moderate to severe brain injury. Suffered two brain bleeds and only a few months later had a stroke. My physical body was and isn’t happy either and I still hurt all over. This happened due to t-boning an animal while riding my motorcycle. This happened in 2022 and life has been and continues to be difficult. Thank you for sharing your experience. Life for us all who has had a TBI for whatever reason has changed oh so much as you and I know. It truly does help reading your story. It is challenging not ever having another person who has had similar experiences to chat with. People who never had a TBI will not understand or ever really understand the way it is. It isn’t like any other problem. Plus there really isn’t any support for us. Yet there’s support for alcoholism, strange, we don’t feed our problems and there zero support for us though. Doctors are quite impressed I am doing as well as I am. I too was in the medical field for work, social work actually. I was bedridden, wheelchair ridden, walker ridden and cane ridden. Now I manage with difficulty to walk without aids due to a vestibular specialist who helped with my brain waves. Apparently people who have went through what I have 77% of them aren’t alive by the time they make it to the hospital. I have been blessed. It has been nice to share my story. Take care of you and all the best.

I would like to get in touch and speak more about all the concussion symptoms because I experienced them all. I also was told my concussion was mild- hitting my head on the frame of my car’s door when I was getting into it, in a rush in 2014. I am also disabled. It wasn’t until I received osteopathic manipulation therapy, that I started my recovery process around 2017 or 2018. What happens with trauma to any body part, the nervous system will protect that area by initiating muscle spasm around it. So the cranial muscles/neck/shoulders go into spasm and the skull gets pushed into the neck. This prevents blood circulation and spinal fluid- brain fog, fatigue, pressure in the head and headaches. After 4 years of therapy I feel better. I also discovered somatic movements therapy in 2022 by Thomas Hanna - and my fatigue disappeared after a few months. I still have visual dysfunction- exophoria mainly because of neck and shoulder problems-spasms. I still have anxiety also- due to serious family problems- that don’t seem to get resolved. I was not aware there were so many support groups available. I so much want to connect because I am all aline in this world. Love to all

Yes….yes…..yes…& yes; nobody understands. But what do you do when you don’t trust anyone & the person that you are in a relationships with (also) has mental disorders? I feel like I’m just banging my head into a wall. Please, help me………anyone…….

Rest, rest, rest, rest, and then rest some more! Like a race car burning through fuel, and fast, it's just necessary to be able to think better. The mental fog and varying short-term memory clarities are just really something to navigate. I've even had some wonder if I had multiple personalities! LOL It's just a rollercoaster and a varying response experience depending how fatigued you are in the moment and what you can or cannot access.

How can I tell if my brain has too much fluid In it

This has happened to me a few times after my car accident last year. I can't believe just doing some basic office tasks would drain me then I literally broke down afterwards. Horrendous experience, yet no one truly understands this unless they had a TBI.

Six years ago, I took the antibiotic Cipro for 3 days. As a result, I experienced EXACTLY what is described on this site as TBI. Exactly. It literally disabled me and I had to retire early. Much healing, overall with regard to fatigue and physical effects have diminished, but the extreme sensitivity "stimulation" of any kind is overwhelming. The worst residual symptom is horrific insomnia where I cycle through periods where I sleep less than 3 hours per night for many nights. Try to get acknowledgement that a drug caused this is near impossible and actually irrelevant to me at this juncture. Basically, if I don't sleep, I simply cannot function. It impacts every part of my life. I'm doing Annie Hoppers CD - DNRS program, and I think it may help. Seems that my limbic system and other parts of my brain were whacked by both toxic reaction as well as PTSD that occurred as a result of the protracted illness. It is the TBI that actually caused my PTSD. Are there others who get this? Where do we go for help?

I recently sustained a temporal lobe concussion (L) resulting in memory loss. My friends and family are telling me I'm mean, I have no emotional feelings. My fiance of 10 years says I act like I dont know him. I don't. But I'm frustrating my friends and family to the point they dont want to be around me.

My daughter had the exact same thing. And I was thinking she had bi-polar after the accident. Through therapy and time she has a lot of the triggers under control. But lack of sleep, time changes, and other factors can really exasperated things. She’s very aware of them tho. Good luck.

I'm 59. Suffered my 1st concussion at the age of 9. I have had 8 documented concussions in my life. I am a Veteran, who was told that I would be showing signs of anger management problems, if I had TBI issues. This came from a VA therapists.
I have suffered with depression since I can remember. I do not sleep often, I collapse into sleep. I am constantly flooded with crying fits. I have dizzy spells, cannot seem to be able to finish a project once started. Half my family thinks I'm crazy, the other half thinks I'm lazy.
I do not try relationships anymore, I live alone.
I also have problems with vertebrae in neck, c3, 4, & 5.

Busted up and hurting, where do I go. I am tired of this.

Hello, I am also a veteran with TBI. I like to look on the veterans website www.va.gov. I have found helpful info there under "healthevet". I can see what is the VA standard of care and see if it is matching the care I am receiving. I can print out info and bring it to my caregiver to remind me of my questions to ask and show him or her that I am informed and have taken the time to be proactive about my health. If you have a smart phone you can download several apps aimed at concussion help. It is not necessary to have anger issues in order to prove you have post concussion syndrome IMHO. See www.brainline.org
I do hope this helps!

Hi James...I have had several concussions, and the one I sustained 5 yrs ago plagued me with overwhelm, eye problems, crying bouts, hysterical laughing bouts, sleep problems, anger flare ups, neck trouble, brain fog, depression...the best help I received was from a low impact/non crunch "tonal" chiropractor (I couldn't start to heal until my head was on straight, it was literally pinching off spinal fluid), a behavioral optomologist (to help retrain my eyes after the concussion), a type of physical therapy called "strain-counter strain", and treatments in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber (this above all others, helped me finally with the pain, and helped me feel like I was getting my mind/my self back). Trying different colored glasses helped tremendously...the color that "brings me down out of the rafters" is blue...makes me look like Bono...My Neuro-chiropractor told me once "these kinds of injuries make people feel crazy--you're not crazy"...I wish you the very best of luck

I had a brain injury over 15 years ago, I just began reading/searching for help and advice for myself because of the difficulties I have been facing, People don't understand brain injury. I have more so of short term memory loss and difficulty sleeping. I strongly feel Jesus answering my prayers, saying I saved you for a reason. Go share your story, talk with people et them know that I saved you from death many times during that horrible wreck. I have lots of pain that I have to deal with, well actually I don't sleep at night so I just sleep when my body allows. Any advice you have , I welcome it with open arms. Thank you

My daughter's boyfriend has suffered several concussions from years as a soccer player. He talks often about his head feeling "messed up" and claims to have been diagnosed with TBI. I noticed the occasional erratic behaviour while he was dating my daughter, but he seemed very genuine and cared about her. I was a little concerned when he started confessing his love for her very early on, but she put a stop to it by telling him that it was just too soon. Fast forward a little while and he confesses to her again that he's in love with her, but this time the feeling is mutual and she tells him and he's over the moon. Less than 12 hours later he demeanor towards her completely changed and he broke up with her, claiming that "his head was messed up" and he just wasn't sure of anything. I've never seen anyone change their mind about being in love with someone so quickly so I'm wondering if this really could be a by product of the TBI or is he just using it as an excuse. He is still texting her and telling her that he's not moved on, but wants her to. When she asks him why they can't be together and she can help him he just says "I don't know. It's just my head." If he's just using it as an excuse to bow out gracefully, then so be it, but I'm worried that this kid is really struggling and no one knows about it and he needs to get help!

My son is s TBI paitent. Yes, this behavior is from the injury 200%. My son currently has issues letting go of old relationships, confessing his love to an ex girlfriend that he was in love with before the injury.
He needs to get a MRI of the brain and with those result see a neuropsychologist. Changes to diet and consuming allot of natural greens (daily)that are towards the rebuilding of brain cells is good and a loving and STRONG home support system.

That is very real and what I would have likely been like if I were him in my worst years suffering from TBI. So touch for you and your daughter though. So sorry. He doesn’t know if he should be trusting his brain. I still don’t trust mine’s decisions almost every day.

I am needing any help i can get in understanding my son. My son is 16 now 3 years ago he recieved a TBI. He looses his temper so easily. One minute he is happy the next he is suicidal. I do not know what to say or do any more. When i try talking to him he always starts yelling and gets mad. you can not reason with him at all. i do not know how to help him.the TBI is tearing my family apart. How do i help him?

Anonymous. Told have 99.9% CTE so I know what your son feels. Does he have a doctor? Is he on any meds? I just started taking Trazodone 100 two hours before bed.  I'm in stage 3. I am NOT a pill guy but it helps depression and helps me sleep. He needs his rest. I lost a daughter to crib death. Tomorrow is 34 years so have been suicidal since then. Now with TBI, it is magnified. I'm struggling with this all the time. I did some research and they say Lithium Carbonate helps with the emotion of suicide. I am NOT a doctor. I try to think outside the box sometimes to see what works for me. Consult your doctor if this is right for him. I don't know kids. I get into it with my two and they are in their 30's. I try to stay out of things but sometimes you try to save them from mistakes. They argue at everything and don't listen to what I say until its too late and they are semi-normal. So..... but with depression and suicidal thoughts; you have to stay away from conflicts. Try to figure out where his trigger points are. Don't turn into a doormat, but pick and choose your battles, try not to yell and choose your words carefully. Hope this helps.

I have a 26 year old that sustained a TBI more than 10 years ago and he has a mood disorder as a result of it. I wish I had suggestions other than having a lot of patience (which I'm sure you do) and try to find a TBI/Brain Injury support group in your area. It will help A LOT. It helped me. From one Mother to another, I can sympathize and relate completely. I send you love and support.


My son also had a severe TBI. We have had many nightmarish situations. For several months he would laugh or cry for "no reason." With time, it passed. The worst was when he was started on Effexor. He began to get angry. Anger progressed to rage--throwing and breaking things. The longer he was on the medication, the worse it got. We stopped the Effexor and the anger slowly disappeared. It has not come back.

We took our son to a neuro-psychiatrist who specializes in TBI. He said that everyone who has a severe TBI ends up with bipolar disorder. He recommended meds. We said no. We decided to not do any meds. It took a long time, but we took the advice of other doctors who said to him, "Be patient and gentle with yourself." We are now almost 2 1/2 years post-TBI and in a very different place. Things will never be like they were before, but life is once again livable. (Please know that meds do help some survivors ... but to others, they may do more harm than good.)

I agree with Aimee. I found a good support group. I learned a lot from the survivors and the caregivers who attended. I found understanding and helpful advice for the nightmares we were living.

Be patient and gentle with yourself too. You were not prepared for this. My heart goes out to you too.

My son is 30 yrs old. Spina Bifida, his shunt failed in 2015. He spent 89 days in the hospital --45 of it in a coma -- from a failed vp shunt. Six surgeries later, he suffers left side weakness, eating and swallowing issues. All is getting better. Behavior, cognitive issues, and damage so far past the brain stem its caused hearing issues and struggles every minute from this. His biggest struggle is getting the right help and right direction from the medical field. He is surely like a TBI patient. Breaks my heart we feel helpless for him. But keep working on getting him better.

Well, I had a minor one, and I need help, I have not been myself since, I want help!

Speak to your family then call your doctor. Talk to him or her of how you feel. Read up on natural remedies and give them a clear 3 to 4 months with other alternatives mind and physical exercises this will help

I feel for anyone who shoved antipsychotic meds after a TBI. After my TBI in 1985, I was on a roller coaster of meds. One to help the other to deplete the next symptoms... I had flooding (a lot of it.) I knew I was different, I was told by loved ones I was crazy. I had both sudo seizures as well as simple complex, later found I had sleep apnea, along with partial paralysis with a left foot drop. I also suffered with hearing loss and everything just sounded like bla bla bla... My eardrums were not moving my brain was very swollen. They tried hearing aids it just made bla bla bla louder - I refused to use them. Later tested as my hearing 3 years later began to come back - I had trouble understanding words beginning of words I was called a liar and that I was faking it. Who the hell would take that? Later they tried to pin all kinds of labels of mental illness, bipolar, personality disorder, major depression, and more.

I'm happy to report today after 31 yrs - I'm finally reading articles seeing doctors who have my best interest in mind. I had situational depression, seizures, flooding from over-stimulation because I pushed myself to do things when I needed to not push so hard. Emotional flooding because of people in my life who didn't understand. So much has happened but like most TBI I am left all alone. People don't understand because I don't look sick... It is an Invisible illness... I can't work a full time, I have family members who think I am lazy. Really because I'd really like a job full time and have money to do things... My brain won't allow me to. Always working and seeking to better myself. On another note where I had front and back TBI, then several more TBI wrenching my neck all the time I'm looking at some serious surgeries.

I just learned about flooding today as a matter of fact it's taken me years to find the right doc. however, why didn't they tell me about this? Perhaps they do not know, I am so tired of teaching family and friends (which I slowly have one) about tbi, selected memory my eye, I would love to learn where I can learn in my area how to learn how to manage my emotions if anyone knows where please tell me

I suffered a "mild" concussion after a slip & fall on the ice.  Thank you for this article! This information would have helped me tremendously had I known this 4+ years ago.  Luckily this uncontrollable laughter & crying only lasted a few days after the injury but it confused my family and landed me in a psych ward for 3 days on an involuntary commitment.  I wish people in the medical/mental health industry would have more training to identify these obvious symptoms that I am still learning.  Thanks for the article and description that helps define my injury.  I pray that the woman with the daughter being falsely accused of bipolar disorder finds better doctors.  I have stood up to doctors and a neuropsycholigist who have tried to label my injury a mental illness.  A registered nurse practitioner who held me in lock down tried to medicate me with an anti seizure & anti depressant combination for my "condition".  It was 2 years later that my best friend who is a RN with 10 years experience in mental health explained to me that they had attempted to treat me for bipolar disorder.  It is inappropriate to make such a diagnosis or recommendation without an extensive history.  The medical world is too quick to medicate rather than locate the true problem through testing that is now available to make sure they are not adding dangerous drugs to an injured brain.  Luckily I refused her recommendations and advised her I wanted to speak to my regular doctor before considering these medications.   Humans are not guinea pigs.  I was drugged against my will twice before leaving the hospital with antipsychotic meds. I now have uncontrollable muscle spasms/tics.  I am hopeful that it is just stress, PTSD or gut health all of which can be healed.  One of the side effects of the forced meds is tic disorders.  Although I doubt that is the case for me I think doctors are calloused & negligent in using dangerous psychotropic meds on any patient with an injured brain. Extreme caution should be used when labeling a person with mental illness and or medicating.  I learned the term differential diagnosis while being sued that doctors can actually admit they are not sure what is causing symptoms before putting labels on a person that can damage them for years to come. 

Exactly...neuropsychologists who do not know about brain injury should not attempt to treat those with suspected brain injuries. They cause more harm than help. The misidiagnosis in my case impeded treatment, I was rubber stamped a nut job instead of getting the help I desperately needed. I am now too traumatized to seek help. I won't go near a doctor.

All of the articles I read address all kinds of symptoms and issues such as flooding after the TBI in such a way that it sounds like these things happen initially when the brain is healing in the first months to year.   What about long term studies that show these issues, problems, symptoms persisting years later.  My TBI was 15 years ago next month and I have these issues.

in 2004 I had one third of my brain removed because of epileptic seizures. The hippo campus, amygdala, and entire uncus was taken from the right side. for the first 10 years I had significant memory issues, not knowing my wife, children, friends etc.... After fifteen years if I hear certain phrases of a song or see glimpses of a movie that pertain to relationship I tear up and cry. Sometimes outright ball like a baby. It's embarrassing but there's nothing I can do about it, it just happens. I think of it as a sort of PTSD bringing me instantly back to the sad and terrifying time when I was so isolated. Doctors back then told me I had gained he full range of emotions for the first time in my life because they cut so much scar tissue out from seizures. Is this brain flooding? Thanks

My head injury was in 1987 and I am really having issues with cognitive decline. When I try to reason or figure issues out, my brain floods and I can't think straight. My life has become simple because I can't figure out how to move ahead anymore so I have learned to settle for a very simple day to day existence, can't work, can barely function at this point. I have to keep my stress level down and I sleep alot. It's been 30 years and I have been pretending to be ok for many years. The first five years after the accident I was an absolute mess, I faked it for many years, now I am finding out how my brain is losing the ability to be a part of society. No one really knows how challenging it is unless you are experiencing it yourself.

Learn about pseudo-bulbar. The laughing part is kind of fun but can be embarrassing and the crying part is embarrassing. Regardless of pseudo-bulbar, when there's too much stimuli without enough rest... that's a recipe for disaster for anyone who's had a TBI. But, you can learn to manage it. And there are some meds that can help (not eradicate) with the mood swings, but you have to find the right mix.

The Pseudobulbar affect causes irrepressible laughter and/or crying. It is a symptom of brain damage from TBI, stroke or advanced degenerative neurological disease.

Its like a hiccup.

In some people, including me, the laughter (or crying) can be triggered by emotional states, but having pseudobulbar effect has nothing to do with your overall emotional state.

Anyone who needs more info on pseudobulbar affect should head to stroke.org and Wikipedia.

Do you know anything about the Emotional Nervious System?  Many of the issues we deal with are centered there i.e. anger - fight or flight - The Limbic System.  Mindfulness training is good way to control these unwanted emotions by staying calm and relaxed.  It is better to be pro-active than reactive to these issues.  You can read all about neuroplasticity, mindfulness, biofeedback on Wikipedia without all the pro-industry slant.