Understanding Your Anger after Traumatic Brain Injury

Understanding Your Anger after Traumatic Brain Injury

By Mike Strand

What’s with the anger?

I have heard people talk about the anger issues surrounding traumatic brain injury or TBI. I have heard it said that persons with brain injury can have a terrible temper and that there is just no talking to them. It has been described as a symptom of TBI and that because of its organic nature there is nothing that can be done about it and that it is just a fact of life.

I see people shake their heads and say how unreasonable a TBI person can be. Caregivers get frustrated. They wonder why the survivor can’t (or won’t) see that they are trying to help them. They feel that they are being taken for granted and are unappreciated. This is not true. Let me try to shed some light on what goes through a brain-injured mind.

My view of the world

When I am angry I believe that I am absolutely right and justified in being angry. The reasons that I am angry are as true to me as my feelings of anger. So often what a brain injury means is being unable to communicate effectively. There are times when all the thoughts are clear in my head, but I just can’t seem to get the words out. If I’m agitated, it just gets worse.

When someone doesn’t agree with those reasons, they usually try to explain the situation to me and say how I just am not taking certain things in consideration. What I “hear” is that I am wrong once again and have no business being angry. I still feel justified in my anger, I just feel like I am unable to explain myself clearly. In my effort to communicate more effectively I raise my voice and speak with more passion.

I give off more heat than light. I also feel that if I were able to explain myself as clearly as I understand myself that they would suddenly understand my anger and that the situation that is making me angry could finally be resolved.

It is very frustrating to see something wrong, terribly wrong, and be the only person able to see it that way. Oftentimes, the road I travel is so far removed from the road that other people travel that I can’t possibly see things but in another way and from another angle.

Am I still angry?

People ask me if, after twelve years, I’m better. I tell them after twelve years it is easier for me to admit that perhaps a thing is not the way I see it; after twelve years I’ve learned that things are occasionally not as they seem to me.

It has taken time for me to realize that just because I see something as square, it may not be square. It is just nice to hear that someone can see why I think it is square. They don’t have to agree with me. They don’t have to show me where I’m wrong. It’s just nice to feel like I’ve been heard.

Otherwise, I’m angry and alone.

Lash and Associates is working on a second edition of Meditations on Brain Injury by Mike Strand to be available summer of 2012. Sign up for the bookstore What’s New Newsletter for notice of its publication.

Recommended Reading

Irritability and Anger: After brain injury

By Samantha Backhaus, Ph.D.

Anger and irritability are common challenges after brain injury. They can affect relationships with family, caregivers, friends, and coworkers. This tip card helps survivors, families and caregivers recognize the early signs of irritability and anger. It includes tips with strategies for preventing and managing changes in irritability and anger.

6 responses to “Understanding Your Anger after Traumatic Brain Injury”

  1. Invisible….That is a good choice of words..Thats how I feel.. invisible…Angry at myself for being hurt…Angry because no one can see the pain I’m in after this brain injury..Invisible describes it so perfectly..

  2. Nik says:

    Its been almost a year now. Can’t remember much from the hospital, but with scans negative the staff there, and following medical check ups, made my injury seem mild. But i am frustratted more easily these days, fighting with my wife more. I kept getting angry yesterday while helping my 18 month old son toddle along a rocky path. I realized there was no reason to be angry and that I was just being over stimulated trying to help him walk (which he was very intent on doing) and keeping my own footing as well. As soon as I would hand him over to my wife to take a break, the feeling of anger would go away. So last night I started reading online and realized I am experiencing symptoms of a brain injury, anger, strong short boughts of depression, fragment thoughts when I’m tired, isolation. No one seems to understand or care- really how could they understand unless they had experienced it themselves. They just want you to be normal. Nice to know there are some tools to cope, like taking a timeout. Looking forward to learning more.

  3. Karen says:

    Amily I was thrown from a horse at the age of 14. I lost a great deal of time recovering my comprehension – years. I spent my adult years raising two kids alone without any help. I moved 37 times in 20 years 90% of the time I was the only one doing all the work. Me and my kid s were also homeless several times. It wasn’t until after I had been treated for depression that I noticed anger and lack of empathy. I learned that “depression hides anger”. So for a decade or two I blamed increasing anger on depression and the lack of help I got raising my kids. After my husband was brutally beaten, he had to be strapped to his hospital bed and became a totally different person afterward. I realized everyone I knew with head injuries had anger issues. I’m in my 50’s now and isolating myself from neighbors, family

  4. Bradley says:

    It has been six and a half years since the cause of my brain injury, a car accident occurred. I have tried a variety of drugs to that prevent me from entering anger sessions, but I seem to be getting worse and not better. I honestly feel that they don’t work and I was better off without them. My family treats me like a conditioned person and are adamant that I need to stay on the drugs. Since my accident My wife, who has been supportive for all these years, seems to be on a different wave length to me and we are slowly drifting apart. I suffer from anxiety, depression, I have now been diagnosed with bi-polar and my thoughts are everywhere. I also don’t hear anyone when I am occupied…its like I am in my own world. My work doesn’t seem to understand why I am no longer able to cold call and why I cannot remember things, even after I have explained my conditions to them. I seem to be living in a world where no one takes me seriously, my voice is insignificant and I am left to feel judged.

  5. V says:

    My brain injury was dismissed until a woman who was a long time customer of my family’s business told me that she thought I had what her daughter had: TBI. She gave me the phone number of the Doctor and “yes, I had it”. I had gone from a peace loving woman who people would ask “are you a nurse or a nun?” to the entire staff threatening to quit if I didn’t stop managing the shops. Well, the few staff members that I hadn’t fired. When I was tested, no questions were asked of me. Nothing was done. I had to isolate myself so that I couldn’t embarrass myself. I would follow and chase any car that dared to put me in jeopardy. I followed one man into a shopping center’s parking lot. He got out and threw his hands to his side like “I surrender”. He could have tossed me across the parking lot yet he was afraid of me. It’s been over 25 years since the head injury. I isolate so that I don’t have the anger lash out. It only seems to come out now when people dismiss what I say but I know I am only lucky that more damage hadn’t been done. And, there is no reason for it. Doctors should have been able to somehow let me have a semi-normal life instead of this life unlived, in pain, anger, and confusion.

  6. Susan says:

    Thank you-I have tears streaming down my face. Two and a half years out I still try as hard as I can every single day. But there are many times I no longer get my message across. I have to leave the room and do something-like dig in the garden. I now feel invisible..
    Can’t say too much more…

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