Cognitive (Thinking) Difficulties

A large percentage of your thinking difficulties can be related to your ongoing pain, sleep problems, and your emotional distress. These conditions often result in significant problems with your ability to pay attention and concentrate, remember things, remember words that you want to say, organize your thoughts, or think rapidly. A concussion can also result in you experiencing some thinking problems, but the effects of concussions almost always go away completely with time. In fact, research has found that approximately 85% of people who experience significant concussions experience a complete resolution of their thinking problems within 3-6 months after their injury. It is very likely that any lingering effects you have experienced as a result of a concussion will also go away.

Concussions occur when you receive a significant blow to the head or when you experience a significant whiplash type injury causing you to be momentarily dazed, dizzy, or confused. You may have even lost consciousness for a few seconds. Many people who suffer such injuries never go to the hospital to seek medical care because the injury seems minor at first. Oftentimes, the cognitive problems take a few weeks or even a month to become noticed. This is frequently due to the fact that the thinking problems begin only after the person has experienced a long period of chronic pain, sleep problems, and emotional distress. Resolving your difficulties in those areas often results in the cessation of the thinking problems you are experiencing.

The brain is made up of thousands and thousands of long, thin nerve fibers. If your head is hit hard enough, some of these nerves can be torn or broken. Oftentimes, this damage cannot be seen on CT or MRI scans because the damage is so minor. Fortunately, however, you have many other thousands of nerve cells which are not damaged as a result of the injury and which attempt to take over the work of the damaged nerve cells. During the first few months after the injury, the brain works to heal itself just like your body works to heal a bruise on your arm. After three or four months, or as long as six months, most of the healing has been completed. This recovery often coincides, fortunately, with the physical healing that has taken place in your body and with the resolution of any emotional distress you have experienced. Therefore, by the time six months have passed since your accident you should be feeling very close to BACK TO NORMAL.

If your brain is bruised seriously enough, there may be some swelling that can take awhile longer to return to normal. One way to tell if a concussion is serious is to determine the amount of time the patient was unconscious after the injury. If you were not knocked out at all, or if you were unconscious for only a few seconds, then the injury is most likely very minor or mild. Even though you may have some symptoms, there is probably very little injury to the brain itself, and complete recovery is expected. Most people who have a concussion fall into this category.

The longer you were unconscious, the longer the recovery period usually takes. If you were knocked out for more than an hour but less than a day, your injuries may be more serious, and full recovery will probably take awhile longer. People who have been unconscious for longer than a day have suffered a significant injury to their brain. Although many patients make a good recovery even after such serious injuries, symptoms can often last for a long time. Sometimes those symptoms can be permanent. Nevertheless, rehabilitation is often very helpful in limiting the effects of such injuries.

The most common symptoms that people experience following concussions are very similar to those identified by people who have never hit their head but who are just living their normal lives. Experiencing thinking type problems is very common for many people as a result of simply the everyday stresses which occur in normal life. Here is another important thing to remember. Research has found that people who have had a concussion have a tendency to overestimate their level of pre-injury thinking ability. They believe that they never made any thinking type mistakes and that they had perfect memory. What they fail to realize and remember is that before their accident they were actually experiencing minor and insignificant memory and concentration difficulties which they never even noticed. But then, after an accident when they experience some minor thinking difficulty they tend to believe that that difficulty is much worse than is actually true.

TIP Be sure to maintain a realistic sense of how you are functioning now compared to how you were functioning before your injury. Try not to mislabel normal thinking mistakes as evidence of brain injury.
Certainly, having a concussion, going to an emergency room, being in pain, not sleeping, having to work with attorneys and insurance companies, and going to many doctors appointments adds a great deal of stress to your everyday life. Such stress will often produce a significant decrease in your thinking ability, making you feel as if your brain is not functioning at all well. Such a decrease, however, does not necessarily mean you have a brain injury. Rather, you should understand that these symptoms are the naturally expected result of all of the things that have happened to you and all of the changes in your life as a result of your injury. It is important to remember that these symptoms will also go away with time.

Obviously, if you worry that you have something seriously wrong with your brain, this will add to your stress and can result in a further decrease in your thinking ability. If you have concerns or symptoms that simply will not go away, be sure to consult with your neuropsychologist or neurologist. They can check you out to confirm that your symptoms are not serious and that your brain is functioning adequately.

 

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