Social Skills and Romance After Brain Injury

Social Skills and Romance After Brain Injury

Thomas Novack, Ph.D.
A brain injury or tbi can alter social skills of survivors and affect their personal relationships. Families and caregivers will find valuable tips to help survivors explore personal relationships and cope with social situations. Many survivors still desire to date and pursue romantic and sexual relationships but find them difficult due to cognitive and behavioral challenges. This tip card gives tips to help survivors develop personal relationships and to avoid inappropriate touching or comments.
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Full Description

Social situations and relationships for survivors of traumatic brain injury or tbi can be awkward and unfulfilling. This can result in social isolation and withdrawal. The survivor may be unaware of improprieties, unable to control impulses, or make inappropriate comments or gestures that alienate family, friends, coworkers, or strangers. This tip card gives families and survivors practical strategies that can be used in a variety of social situations by addressing sensitive issues of romance and sexuality.
Pages 8
Year 2012


Thomas Novack, Ph.D.

Dr. Novack is a neuropsychologist and Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He is also Director of the Traumatic Brain Injury Model System.


Social Skills

Coping with Social Situations

Tips on helping survivors in social situations

  • Focus on common topics
  • Find a spot, and stay there!
  • Retreat
  • Avoid embarrassment
  • Redirect attention
  • Role-playing
  • Non-verbal cues

Where's the Romance?

Tips on helping survivors with personal relationships…

  • Role play
  • Establish rules about touching
  • Look for social outlets
  • Supervise closely
  • Avoid sexually explicit material
  • Be a listener



Social Skills

What we say, how we say it, and what we do – these are social skills for interacting with others. We are used to thinking of social skills as something we help our children develop as they grow up so their actions and words fit the situation. People who have a brain injury as an adult have usually developed their social skills, while a child or teenager is in the process of building such skills. A brain injury can alter social skills in survivors of any age.

After a brain injury, the person may:

  • act younger or immature
  • say or do things that embarrass family or friends
  • interrupt conversations
  • make irrelevant comments during conversations
  • make repetitive comments, including talking about the injury
  • give out revealing personal information
  • ask questions that are too personal
  • want to touch others excessively and inappropriately

Tips on helping survivors in social situations…

ü Talk about common and familiar topics.   

ü Choose a place where to stand or sit in a group.

ü Ease the person out of an uncomfortable situation.

ü Avoid embarrassing the survivor.

ü Switch to a new topic if the survivor is struggling.

ü Role play or model social behavior.

ü Teach non-verbal cues.