PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and TBI make a fantastically diabolic couple. They feed each other, a straight diet of anxiety, stimulation, and avoidance. They share many symptoms, overlapping and feeding off each other. In my previous blog entries, I haven’t discussed my experiences with PTSD much.
Symptoms of PTSD are generally broken into three categories: intrusive memories, avoidance and emotional numbing, and anxiety and increased emotional arousal. Examples of intrusive memories are nightmares, flashbacks, and not being able to stop thinking about the trauma and its aftereffects. Avoidance is a major factor in PTSD and treatment. People avoid locations, emotions, activities that remind them of the trauma. Some people may have amnesia regarding parts of the trauma. Talking to a therapist about the trauma is NOT high on the list of chosen activities. Emotional numbing symptoms include: withdrawal from relationships and activities, inability to feel joy or happiness, hopelessness about the future, difficulties concentrating, difficulties maintaining close relationships. Finally, hyperarousal/ anxiety symptoms include: increased startle response, hypervigilance, irritability or anger, difficulties sleeping, substance use or abuse, and overwhelming guilt or shame.
Every brain injury is different. This is my experience of recovery from a moderate TBI. Some patients may not develop the same symptoms I experience. After the acute stages of Traumatic Brain Injury, the brain is slowly healing. Many of the initial symptoms have resolved.
For many people, there are no remaining symptoms. Other survivors continue to experience problems.
Traumatic Brain Injury Symptoms
Change in consciousness (usually loss)
Change in cognition
Change in pupillary response
Light and/or sound sensitivity
Poor coordination, paralysis, muscle weakness
How the Terrible Two Interact
My brain has healed physically but I am among the survivors who have continued issues. I have PTSD from an unrelated trauma.
One problem I experience is sensory overload; loud sounds, bright lights, motion. My brain doesn’t modulate input effectively. It is like being knocked over by a wave and dragged into the undertow. It also triggers migraines. One thing that happens when I am overloaded is anxiety. Out in public, my hypervigilance interacts with the anxiety, boosting it higher. I avoid places like WalMart. Irritability is also a common symptom. Am I irritable due to PTSD or because I just don’t feel right that day? Is one feeding the other?
Life goes on. I continue to progress in my recovery journey from both. Some days are better than others.