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Can a Traumatic Brain Injury Cause PTSD?

Oftentimes, when traumatic brain injuries or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are discussed, they are kept separate. While they are separate conditions, however, it is not uncommon for an individual to live with both of these conditions. In fact, for those living with a dual diagnosis, it can be hard to separate them or to figure out where one ends and the other begins due to their shared similarities. A person who is suffering from both a traumatic brain injury and PTSD will likely experience a combination of overpowering and destructive symptoms that can make not only his or her own life difficult, but affect the lives of family and loved ones as well.

Despite the fact that there is an increased awareness regarding PTSD, people tend to mistakenly believe that only service members and veterans are prone to this condition. Anyone who has ever been exposed to a life-threatening traumatic event can develop PTSD. Surviving car crashes, shootings, fires, assaults, or kidnapping, to name a few, can all result in the development of PTSD in an individual.

What is PTSD?

PTSD is a mental disorder and those who suffer from it are at a higher risk for physical injuries, depression, substance abuse, and sleep disorders, which can all affect the individual’s thoughts and actions. Symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Repeated memories of the event that caused PTSD
  • Flashbacks and reliving the event to a point where the person loses touch with reality
  • Avoiding people, places, sights, or sounds that are reminders
  • Feeling emotionally numb and detached from people and family
  • Feelings of shame regarding what happened
  • Survivor guilt
  • Hypervigilance or alertness for threats

When both PTSD and a traumatic brain injury coexist, the combination can create the perfect storm and deeply affect the individual. While a traumatic brain injury cannot, in itself, cause PTSD, if the individual is traumatized enough by the injury-causing event, he or she might develop this condition. Together, these two conditions will reinforce one another.

To understand the vast similarities between PTSD and traumatic brain injuries, read on as we compare their symptoms:

  • Memory: This is one of the differences that PTSD and traumatic brain injuries. Individuals suffering from a brain injury sometimes experience a period of amnesia that can range anywhere from a matter of minutes to days or weeks. Those who suffer from PTSD, however, have the opposite issue and are often plagued by unwanted memories of what happened. These memories can invade a person’s thoughts at any time of the day or night, forcing the individual to relive the trauma.
  • Sleep: For those who sustain a traumatic brain injury, sleep disorders are a common symptom. This injury can make it difficult for them to fall asleep, stay asleep, or wake up early. Those with traumatic brain injuries tend to be unable to get the restorative sleep they need. Individuals with PTSD also experience difficulty sleeping since their mental state of hypervigilance interferes with their ability to sleep. In fact, nightmares are such a common occurrence for PTSD sufferers that they dread going to sleep and stay up late to avoid their nightmares.
  • Isolation: Survivors of traumatic brain injuries sometimes feel isolated in the aftermath of their injury. Perhaps they got support early on, but over time it dwindled. This can make them feel socially withdrawn and isolated. On the other hand, those with PTSD self-impose their isolation since it can sometimes be too difficult to interact with others.
  • Emotions: Traumatic brain injuries can damage parts of the brain that control emotions and, as a result, one’s emotions can become unpredictable and swing from different extremes. It can make the injured person appear to be mentally ill or unstable. Those with PTSD tend to experience emotional numbness and have a difficult time enjoying life. The emotional shutdown they experience can harm their relationships with family, friends, and co-workers.
  • Depression: Depression is one of the most common psychiatric diagnoses individuals with traumatic brain injuries or PTSD receive. In both cases, it is crucial for these individuals to seek the skilled mental therapy they need.

Despite the fact that there are some differences between these and other symptoms associated with PTSD and traumatic brain injuries, there is no denying that there is a massive overlap and interplay. If you are suffering from one or both of these conditions, pursue the most effective treatment offered and reach out to your loved ones for support and help.

Catastrophic Injury Attorneys in Atlanta

If you suffered a traumatic brain injury and developed PTSD as a result, you might be entitled to compensation if your injury was caused by someone else’s negligence. At Pratt Clay, LLC, our team of skilled catastrophic injury attorneys represent injured victims throughout the nation and would be honored to be your legal advocate to ensure that justice is served on your behalf. You do not have to go through this difficult time on your own.

Contact our office today at (404) 998-5258 to schedule a free consultation with a knowledgeable member of our legal team.


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The Cost of a Brain Injury

Top Causes of Brain Injuries

What You Need to Know About Concussions