Tips for Reducing Anxiety for People
with a TBI
By Dr. Bryan Weinstein & Drew Bufalini
Anyone who has experienced anxiety understands the emotional and physical toll it can take. Some incidents of anxiety are simple to resolve, where others require more support, attention and medication.
For a traumatic brain injury survivor, anxiety can be more daunting to treat. When a person with TBI experiences an anxiety attack, it’s crucial to understand how to help them deal with it and provide them a chance to live a healthier and happier life. To do this, we must look deeper into their trauma, psychology and the TBI itself.
Understanding Anxiety for Individuals with TBI
Ryan Rivera, editor of the National Stress Clinic says scientists believe that damage to the front of the brain may play a role in increasing anxiety. He adds that any damage to the brain’s autonomic functioning may increase anxiety symptoms.
Studies have shown that the front part of the brain, specifically the frontal lobe, is the most common area of injury after a traumatic brain injury on any level. The frontal lobe is associated with important functions, such as problem solving, social behavior and judgment.
Because of this, anxiety is common among individuals with a traumatic brain injury, even after they have made a full recovery.
Brainline.org provides a scope of problems associated with anxiety. They write that anxiety can trigger problems such as restlessness, sleeplessness, depression and difficulty with concentrating, completing tasks and getting along with others.
MSKTC, a national center that helps facilitate the knowledge translation process to make research meaningful to those with traumatic brain injuries, associates anxiety problems with a damaged frontal lobe.
"Difficulty reasoning and concentrating can make it hard for the person with TBI to solve problems,” MSKTC writes. “This can make the person feel overwhelmed, especially if he or she is being asked to make decisions.”
Solutions for Reducing Anxiety for Individuals with TBI
It's important to understand that the individual, while he or she may not act like it, wants support. Socialization is a key solution to reducing anxiety, which makes being there for the individual of the utmost importance.
Life Skills Village neuro rehabilitative therapists such as Tani Herdell say having an open ear to the individual will help let the individual know that you are there for him or her. It also provides individuals a personal source where he or she can provide their own input on what is happening.
Tani says that clinicians sometimes talk over the individual and talk amongst themselves, at the expense of the individual being aware. The lack of awareness, as a result, restricts the individual from providing input. This can contribute to the individual feeling he or she has lost control of their life, another symptom of anxiety.
Once the individual knows he or she has someone to provide input to, Tani suggests setting a daily communication guideline. When setting a guideline, Herdell suggests to consider adding these into the guideline: