Sheethal Behari
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By Sheethal Behari, Clinical Psychologist

What is it?

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) results from an impact to the head that disrupts normal brain functioning.  The impact is caused by an external mechanical force such as a motor vehicle accident, a gunshot wound, violent shaking in infants and children, falling and hitting your head and assault (being kicked, punched or struck on your head).  The resulting impairment can be temporary or permanent and can affect cognitive, physical and psychosocial functioning.  TBI ranges in severity from mild, moderate to severe.  Since the brain defines who we are, the consequences of a brain injury can affect all aspects of our lives, including our personality.  No two brain injuries are alike, symptoms may appear right away or a while after the injury and the recovery process is different for different people.


  • Injury to specific areas of the brain will cause certain symptoms.  For example, injury to the frontal lobes will cause loss of higher cognitive functions, such as loss of inhibitions leading to inappropriate social behaviour.
  • Injury to the cerebellum will cause loss of coordination and balance.
  • The brainstem controls activities such as breathing and heart rate. An injury to this area could inhibit any of these processes. 
  • Common symptoms of TBI include fatigue, headaches, visual disturbance, memory loss, impaired attention/concentration, sleep disturbance, dizziness/loss of balance/irritability-emotional disturbances, depression, seizures, confusion, language difficulties and sensory abnormalities.

How do psychologists diagnosis and determine the nature of TBI?

Neuropsychological testing is used to determine the specific areas of the brain are affected by TBI and to what degree.  During a neuropsychological assessment, a clinical psychologist reviews the case history and hospital records of the patient, interviews the patient and his/her family members and conducts a series of tests on the patient. The level of an individuals cognitive and psychosocial functioning is determined and this informs the rehabilitative process.  Neuropsychological reports can be used to claim compensation from third parties e.g. the Road Accident Fund in the case of a motor vehicle accident.


Recovery from TBI

Rehabilitation for TBI involves two essential processes: restoration of functions that can be restored, and learning how to do things differently when functions cannot be restored to pre-injury level.  Since one of the consequences of brain injury is that the patient does not realise that a brain injury has occurred, psychotherapy during rehabilitation focuses on helping the patient gain insight into their injuries and current level of functioning.  With so many varying symptoms of TBI, the lives of patients who have had a TBI can be drastically altered.  In their everyday lives, they may not remember everyday things as well as before, may get easily lost, may not have the mental capabilities to drive, cook, and choose their own clothes to wear.  They may become easily angered, violent or lose interest in pleasurable activities. They may refuse all help, blame or heavily rely on caregivers and this can take a heavy toll.  It is important for caregivers to also seek psychological help to deal with feelings of loss, sadness, anger and burn-out.

If you or a family member has been diagnosed with Traumatic Brain Injury or are experiencing any of the above symptoms after an injury to the head contact Sheethal Behari at Psychmatters: or 011-4503576 to book a consultation for psychological help with therapy or neuropsychological testing and report.

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