Signs and Effects of Traumatic Brain Injury

Signs and Effects of TBI

When a traumatic brain injury occurs, the injured person may experience physical, cognitive, or behavioral effects. Symptoms are dependent on whether the injury is localized or widespread, the severity of the injury, and the part(s) of the brain that are affected.

Mild, Moderate, and Severe TBI

With mild TBI, a person may remain conscious or may lose consciousness for a few seconds or minutes. Outside of losing consciousness, other symptoms may not be present or noticed at the time of the injury; it may take days or weeks before they appear. The symptoms are often subtle and may be missed by the injured person, family, friends, or medical professionals. A person with moderate to severe TBI may have the same symptoms as found in mild TBI, but to a greater degree; for example, a headache that does not go away, repeated vomiting or nausea, an extended loss of consciousness (more than 30 minutes), dilated pupils, or slurred speech.

Physical Effects

  • Headaches
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Blurry eyesight
  • Trouble hearing
  • Loss of energy
  • Change in sense of taste or smell
  • Dizziness or trouble walking
  • Stiffness/weakness
  • Lack of coordination/balance
  • Problems with sleep/fatigue
  • Seizures
  • Slurred speech/no speech
  • Bladder/bowel control

Cognitive Effects

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Trouble with attention
  • Forgetfulness
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Repeating things
  • Slowed thinking
  • Trouble completing tasks
  • Difficulty with learning
  • Impaired judgment
  • Altered smell/taste/hearing/vision
  • Difficulty sequencing
  • Loss of personal safety skills

Behavioral Effects

  • Becoming angry easily
  • Getting frustrated easily
  • Acting without thinking
  • Irritability/impatience
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Low self-esteem
  • Difficulty reading social clues
  • Mood swings
  • Inability to cope
  • Self-centeredness

Signs of Traumatic Brain Injury in Small Children

Infants and young children with brain injuries may lack the communication skills to report headaches, sensory problems, confusion and similar symptoms. In a child with traumatic brain injury, you may observe:

  • Change in nursing or eating habits
  • Persistent crying
  • Unusual or easy irritability
  • Change in ability to pay attention
  • Inability to be consoled
  • Change in sleep habits
  • Sad or depressed mood
  • Loss of interest in favorite toys or activities