The effect of Brain Injury on relationships

What is Acquired Brain Injury (ABI)?

ABI is a medical term which describes an acute or rapid onset brain injury. There can be a number of causes for this, including trauma, a stroke or infection.

What are the physical effects?

  • These are usually physically obvious. Patients may suffer seizures, problems with vision and hearing, co-ordination and mobility problems, paralysis and recurrent pain symptoms such as headaches.

What are the physchological effects?

These are sometimes less evident than physical symptoms, but, just as important.

  • Patients may experience a lack of motivation or a change in temperament.
  •  Families may find patients more aggressive or tearful and partners can find a loss of sexual drive hinders their relationship.
  •  Sufferers can experience memory and concentration problems which hinder day to day activities and in some cases severe illnesses such as psychosis have been known to manifest.

How do physchological effects impact upon relationships?

  • Patients can struggle to come to terms with their symptoms as can their families and friends and a large adjustment to a daily routine is often needed.
  • Family members, especially partners, often feel isolated and trapped, but, are a crucial asset to the patient in providing support.

What do the National institute for health and care excellence (NICE) guidelines state?

  •  These confirm that an assessment of a patient’s emotional state should be undertaken in all brain injury cases. Where mood disorders are identified, information should be provided and the opportunity given for patients to speak to someone experienced in managing the impact of acquired brain injury.
  • Patients should have access to individual or group based neuro-psycho therapeutic intervention to help implement the long term family and social adjustment.

Brainline's Research

  • In anticipation of Action for Brain Injury Week, charity Brain Line recently commissioned a survey to ascertain how many patients and families were offered counselling following a head injury.
  • Sixty eight per cent of respondents said they had difficulties in their sexual relationship since one sustained a brain injury, but, only 10% had been offered advice by a healthcare professional.
  • Some 40% reported that they had experienced a relationship breakdown following an injury, and 77% said there was a need for more information about the impact of brain injury upon relationships.

Vincents Opinion

  • Despite recommendations provided by NICE, it is clear that psychological treatment and therapy recommendations are lacking at the point of discharge or following a patient’s return home.
  • Raising awareness of this is paramount and patients and their families should not be afraid to ask for a referral if they think this is needed.