The Emotional Rollercoaster of Brain Injury: What you need to know to manage your emotions

July 15, 2022

An acquired brain injury (ABI) can be a life-altering event. For many people, it feels like they are on an emotional roller coaster. There may be times when you feel great, and then suddenly you experience intense emotions for no apparent reason. This can be very confusing and frightening. It is important to understand that these feelings are normal after a brain injury. Learning to cope with the ups and downs of your emotions will take time, but with patience and support, you can get through this challenging phase of your life.

What is an Acquired Brain Injury (ABI)

An acquired brain injury (ABI) is an umbrella term that is an injury to the brain that has occurred after birth. ABI can result in a wide range of physical, cognitive, and emotional difficulties. The most common types of ABI are traumatic brain injury (TBI) and non-traumatic brain injuries (such as stroke, aneurysm, encephalitis, etc.). TBI is further divided into mild TBI (mTBI), moderate TBI, and severe TBI. mTBI, also known as a concussion, is the most common type of TBI. Symptoms of ABI can be mild, moderate, or severe and can vary significantly from person to person. Common physical symptoms include headaches, dizziness, fatigue, and problems with balance and coordination. Cognitive symptoms may include difficulties with memory, attention, and executive functioning skills. Emotional symptoms may include irritability, anxiety, depression, and mood swings. If you or someone you know has sustained an ABI, it is important to seek medical attention immediately. With proper diagnosis and treatment, many people with ABI can improve and lead fulfilling lives.

ABIs can cause a range of emotions, and that’s normal.

The brain is an amazing organ. It allows us to think, feel, and experience the world around us. It controls our movement, regulates our bodies, and stores our memories. So when the brain is injured, it can have a profound effect on every aspect of our lives.

Recovery from a brain injury is a unique experience. Unlike a physical injury, where the damage can be seen and understood by others, the effects of a brain injury are often invisible. This can make it difficult for loved ones to understand what we are going through and can lead to frustration on both sides.

However, it is important to remember that recovery is possible. With time, patience, and support, we can heal the brain and reclaim our lives. Brain injury recovery may be unique, but there is hope and new science that is encouraging for healing.

It’s important to understand what you’re feeling and why so that you can cope better

After sustaining a brain injury, it is common to experience changes in your emotions. You may find yourself feeling more anxious, irritable, or down. It is important to remember that these changes are a normal part of the healing process. The first step to managing your emotions is becoming aware of them. Pay attention to how you are feeling throughout the day and what might be triggering your emotions. Once you have a better understanding of your emotions, you can start to have compassion for yourself and your symptoms. Recognizing that your brain is going through a lot of changes can help you to be more patient with yourself. Next, start to track your emotions and look for patterns. This will help you to identify what triggers your emotions and how best to manage them. Lastly, implement changes, allow the emotion to pass, or find tools to help you cope. This may include relaxation techniques, journaling, or talking to a counselor. brain injury can be overwhelming, but by taking things one step at a time, you can get through it. We’ll dive into that in the next section…

Tools to help with emotional regulation or breaking the stress cycle

There is no question that brain injuries can be incredibly traumatic, both physically and emotionally. Fortunately, there are ways to deal with the emotional aftermath of a brain injury. One of the most helpful things you can do is talk to someone else who has gone through the same thing. This can help you feel less alone and give you some much-needed perspective. Additionally, writing down your thoughts and feelings can be a therapeutic way to process what you’re going through. Finally, participating in activities that make you happy – such as movement, watching something funny, or receiving physical affection from a loved one or pet – can help break the nervous system cycle and assist in a more renewing state. Everyone is different, but these activities can be helpful for many people dealing with the emotional fallout of a brain injury.

It’s also important to be patient with yourself – healing takes time

Being compassionate is one of the key tools in brain injury recovery. Many survivors struggled with feelings of shame about their limitations post-injury. It is normal to feel these emotions. It’s ok to be sad if you need to be. It’s also important to find ways to be kind to yourself while you heal and find new ways to do things. often, brain injury survivors need to relearn how to do everything from tying their shoes to cooking dinner. it can be a long and difficult process, but it is important to remember that you are not alone. Many people have been through similar experiences and who understand what you are going through. Reach out to them for support and advice, and most importantly, be patient with yourself. You are doing the best you can, and that is all anyone can ask for.

If the emotions persist for an extended period of time or become too much to handle on your own, it might be helpful to seek professional help

Brain injury can lead to a variety of mental health challenges. While it is common to experience some level of anxiety or depression after an injury, some people struggle with more significant issues that can make everyday life difficult. If you are finding it hard to get out of bed in the morning, experiencing panic attacks, or struggling to cope with your emotions, it is important to seek support. Many effective techniques can help you to manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life. Deep breathing exercises and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help manage anxiety, while trauma-focused therapies can address more significant issues. Social pragmatic training can also be beneficial in helping you to communicate effectively and connect with others. If you are struggling after a brain injury, talk with your doctor about treatment options and consider seeking help from a trained therapist. With the right support, you can recover and thrive.

After sustaining a brain injury, it is essential to seek out trained professionals who understand the unique challenges that come with the territory. I often advise patients and their families to contact their local neurorehabilitation center to get started on the road to recovery. The Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) is another great resource, as they offer support groups led by peers who have been through brain injury themselves. These groups can provide referrals for mental health and physical health providers who are experienced in working with brain injury patients. With the help of skilled professionals, brain injury patients can begin to rebuild their lives and reach their full potential.


Brain injury is a unique and challenging injury. It is invisible, all-encompassing, and not often understood by others. This can make it difficult for people to find the emotional support they need following a brain injury. Friends and family are important, but may not be able to provide everything someone with a brain injury needs. Seeking out a brain injury support group in your area or at a local neurorehabilitation center may be the best step for finding the right kind of support. If you are looking for more information on how to cope with a brain injury, please do not hesitate to contact me today. I offer coaching programs specifically designed for individuals who have suffered an ABI.

Here are some trusted sites to visit to learn more about mental health and brain injury.

Brain Injury Association of America

Groups for Brain Injury

The VA for veterans, but also really great information!


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