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Mild TBI (mTBI) and concussion: There’s nothing mild about the way they can affect your life

Constant Therapy | Traumatic brain injury

Mild TBI (mTBI) and concussion are often misunderstood and frequently go untreated. This post discusses causes, symptoms, and treatment options for both mild TBI and concussion.

Concussions and mTBI’s can cause difficulty with attention, executive function and planning, and memory, and can cause a myriad of physical and psychological maladies that can make living your life functionally as you did before the incident significantly challenging. Luckily, there are treatments available, assuming you get diagnosed immediately.

What is concussion and mild TBI (mTBI)?

The definitions of concussion and mild TBI are fairly fluid. They can be difficult to diagnose, because at the time, a person may seem “fine”. Generally speaking, mild TBI and concussion in most circumstances do not lead to loss of consciousness (though in some cases they do, and indeed if a person loses consciousness only for a few seconds, this may be hard to assess, or even notice).

What are the symptoms?

These vary from person to person and circumstance to circumstance. There are many different symptoms (the following are from the DSM-5, the leading tool in medical diagnoses, for “minor neurocognitive disorder”, ranging from headache, to dizziness, to double-vision, blurred vision, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), hearing loss, photo and phonophobia (light or sound over-sensitivity), decreased taste and smell, and nausea or vomiting. Additionally, psychological issues may arise such as depression, anxiety, fatigue, irritability, and decreased libido. Communication systems affected may include attention, concentration, and memory, along with processing speed.

Right after an incident, a person might be confused, or they might forget events prior to, during, or after the incident. They may not respond to questions as they usually would, and may appear dazed. In some cases, people may even lose consciousness for a few or more seconds.

What are the causes?

Concussion and mild TBI occur when there is an impact to the brain. This might happen due to a fall down the stairs that may seem minor at the time. Sports are also a common cause of concussion, and may result in repeated concussions that can cause more significant difficulties over time.

Many veterans returning from war have been found to have mild TBI, which is also strongly associated with PTSD. As always, we owe it to our veterans, and all persons with communication challenges, to ensure that treatment is readily available.

What does treatment look like?

As in all communication disorders, the communication aspects of mild TBI and concussion should be addressed in as functional a manner as possible. Also, as always, this should be done in conjunction with the medical field to address other physical and psychological components to mild TBI and concussion symptoms. This might include attention tasks such as reading the newspaper in a crowded, noisy environment (training divided attention), or reading a map and routing the way to a local museum (such as in our Map Reading task on Constant Therapy). Regardless, with the right therapy, attention, concentration, and memory can be addressed, and the brain’s amazing ability to rehabilitate itself can be harnessed.

One of the biggest steps in addressing these symptoms is also to increase awareness of the ways that mild TBI or concussion has affected you. By recognizing these issues, you are taking the first step towards learning to compensate and working to toward recovering those brain functions affected by your mild TBI or concussion.

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