Brain injuries are among the most devastating and frightening of all traumatic injuries. When a person has sustained brain damage, it's often difficult to predict how the injury will affect the victim, both in the short-term and years down the line. One of the most significant - and poorly understood - long-term effects of brain trauma is the potential for personality change.
Suffering a serious brain injury is traumatic in itself, and could, of course, bring about a change in the victim's outlook and beliefs. But doctors say that in some cases, the injury itself changes how a person acts and reacts in certain situations.
Take, for example, a Virginia man who suffered a serious brain injury in a car accident 12 years ago. Like so many other drivers, he was the victim of another motorist's negligence after a wrong-way driver struck his Honda Civic head on.
Before the accident, the man says he was a leader among his peers and an even-tempered friend. After the accident, however, he feels more passive, more willing to be a follower. He says he is also much more short-tempered than he was before and prone to angry outbursts. Even his sense of humor has changed; while once sophisticated, he now makes jokes suitable for much younger ages. When he speaks about his life before the accident, he describes a different person.
Personality changes are often very difficult for victims and their families to deal with. In general, people build relationships based on their own personality, seeking out the sorts of people with whom they are compatible. When one's personality changes, then, it becomes very difficult to maintain those relationships. Often one's work and social life suffers, as the victim struggles to regain one's identity.
Research into personality changes is ongoing, though doctors say it's a difficult task. The brain is an incredibly complex organ, one that medical professionals have so far failed to understand completely. While a cure may someday be found, for the time being those who have suffered a traumatic brain injury will have to learn to cope with any personality changes that come with it.
NBC News, "'A different person': Personality change often brain injury's hidden toll" Bill Briggs, Sep. 28, 2013