Why do memory problems after brain injury cause anger?
When we talk to people who have memory problems after TBI, we often hear that what they are feeling is not a little bit of frustration that many of us experience with our everyday memory failures, but something that feels so different than how they expect themselves to function that they become angry, and sometimes even enraged.
When I see people in clinic, oftentimes they are brought because they're having an emotional problem after their brain injury. They're getting anxious. They're getting angry. And when you start peeling back the layers of what actually has happened, what you find underneath is what we might call a cognitive failure.
It can be really striking for people, and it can become quite limiting in terms of everyday activities, whether that's interactions with other people or with family, with children, with spouses, with employers, even strangers in public. These problems with memory and other cognitive abilities, once there, can be very disruptive, not only for the sake of their own learning and use in everyday life, but with the emotions that they tend to engender. It's a very, very distressing experience to not be able to do what you need to do thinking- and memory-wise every day.
Dr. David Arciniegas is a psychiatrist in Gunnison, Colorado and is affiliated with TIRR Memorial Hermann. He received his medical degree from University of Michigan Medical School and has been in practice for more than 20 years. He is one of 2 doctors at TIRR Memorial Hermann who specialize in Psychiatry.