Can a brain injury cause PTSD?

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The relationship between brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is complex. Since PTSD is a mental health disorder, it's not caused by a brain injury. However, the two conditions can cause overlapping symptoms and create complexities in the treatment process. Brain injuries and PTSD

Symptoms of a Brain Injury

The symptoms of a traumatic brain injury (TBI) vary in each individual but can include:

  • Trouble with memory and concentration
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • Severe fatigue
  • Headaches and dizziness
  • Vision problems
  • Loss of coordination and balance
  • Slurred speech
  • Depression, anxiety, and mood swings
  • Agitation, aggressiveness, or combative behavior
  • Personality changes
  • Poor judgment

Brain injuries are diagnosed with a neurological examination and imaging tests such as a CAT scan, an MRI, or a PET scan.

Developing PTSD After a Brain Injury

Although brain injuries don't cause PTSD, it's possible to develop the condition after any traumatic event. Memories of the accident that caused the brain injury, as well as the emotional trauma associated with the injury, can trigger PTSD symptoms that complicate the rehabilitation process.

The risk of developing PTSD after an accident causing a brain injury is higher in people with a past history of a mental health disorder such as anxiety and depression. People who are socially isolated and lack a strong support post-accident support system also face a higher risk.

Symptoms of PTSD after a brain injury can include:

  • Feeling depressed
  • Feeling guilt and shame
  • Feeling anxious and jittery
  • Having unwanted memories of the accident that caused the brain injury
  • Avoiding people or places that remind you of the accident that caused the brain injury
  • Having trouble connecting to friends and family
  • Feeling emotionally numb
  • Finding it difficult to relax because you're always on the lookout for potential threats or dangers to yourself and others

To some extent, experiencing these symptoms immediately after involvement in a traumatic event is entirely normal. To qualify as PTSD, symptoms must persist for more than a month and cause significant problems in the ability to complete everyday activities or maintain relationships with others.

Treatment for Brain Injuries

Mild forms of TBIs are generally treated with rest and close monitoring of symptoms. Patients are urged to avoid physically strenuous or cognitively taxing activities to give the brain time to heal.

In more serious forms of brain injury, medication may be given to control seizures or reduce pressure in the brain. Surgery may be performed to control bleeding in the brain or repair a fractured skull.

Someone with a serious TBI will require ongoing rehabilitation to relearn basic skills. This can include learning how to perform tasks such as walking, talking, and self-feeding. The patient's care team will include a neuropsychologist who evaluates cognitive impairment and performance, provides psychotherapy, and develops treatment plans to help the patient manage behaviors and learn effective coping strategies.
Treatment for PTSD

PTSD is treated with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), either in the form of Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) or Prolonged Exposure (PE). CPT helps individuals better understand how the triggering event has affected their thoughts and feelings. PE consists of slowly exposing PTSD sufferers to situations or events that trigger symptoms until they are able to react in a more controlled fashion.

Medications can't cure PTSD, but they can be used to manage specific symptoms. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) can minimize symptoms of depression, while Prazosin can control nightmares.

Protecting Your Right to Compensation

If you've suffered a TBI and are experiencing symptoms of PTSD after an accident caused by another party's negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If you're partially at fault for the accident that caused your injuries, you can receive compensation that is proportionally reduced by your assigned percentage of fault.

Neblett, Beard & Arsenault's legal team advocates for injured Louisiana residents throughout the process of resolving their personal injury claims. To learn more, please contact us online or call us directly at 318.588.6303 for a free consultation. Our experienced lawyers work on a contingency fee basis. 


Michael S. Koch
Attorney Michael Koch represents personal injury victims throughout Louisiana and the surrounding area.