When they don't believe you have a Brain Injury
Often someone with a brain injury
has no outward physical signs of injury, and may have trouble
convincing others that they do have a disability.
Brain disorders such as traumatic brain injury are often called
invisible disabilities because a person may outwardly appear to be
unaffected. This is especially true if the cause was a brain
tumour, near drowning, mild stroke or drugs. Even when the injury
is caused by trauma such as a motor vehicle accident, the scars may
heal so well that the person appears to be fully recovered.
Unfortunately even a so-called 'mild' traumatic brain injury can
leave a person with lifelong problems with memory, concentration,
motivation, fatigue, stress, depression and reduced self-awareness.
It is common for family, employers and friends to not understand
there are problems when they can't see physical evidence. Typical
- "The insurance company says I'm fine and don't need
- "My girlfriend says I'm self-centred and don't care about her
- "Mum and dad think it's all in my head, that I'm making all
- "The boss thinks I'm being lazy and avoiding working too
When family members don't understand
Family members often have the most trouble understanding the
invisible nature of a Brain Injury. Often they are confronted with
a 'new' personality -a family member who may be depressed, angry,
anxious, lacking motivation, can't remember things and doesn't
appear to listen.
This is a very difficult time for family members, and if they
are frustrated it is very tempting to believe the person with a
Brain Injury is deliberately choosing to make life difficult for
However, after a Brain Injury it is a very long difficult
process to begin relearning all of these lost skills, or learning
coping strategies through rehabilitation that can substitute for
skills that can't be relearned.
A common experience for many after a Brain Injury is they
constantly feel exhausted in their efforts to regain aspects of
their former life, and are very discouraged by what they feel is a
lack of compassion from their family members.
On the other hand, the person with a Brain Injury may lack
self-awareness, and not fully understand how difficult it can be
for their family in the caring role.
How to convince others
How do you convince someone that you
do have a Brain Injury - or that is impacting your life far more
than they realize? Trying to discuss the issue is often difficult.
Family members are often resentful if they have been coping with
challenging behaviours caused by the Brain Injury.
Discussions can break down into recriminations and the Brain Injury
can be seen as a weak excuse for inappropriate behaviour.
Families often come to understand a Brain Injury through simply
reading about it. Previously their ideas may have been based on
what they had seen in movies -a person is knocked briefly
unconscious, forgets who they are, their memory is restored by
another bump to the head, then they are fine again.
If the rehabilitation process is still occurring, it can help to
have a professional discuss the situation in a family meeting, and
look at strategies that can ease tensions at home.
Insurance, compensation & legal
Insurance companies and generic rehabilitation services are
often unaware of the ongoing effects of a Brain Injury, and that
there is often no complete recovery. In some cases individuals need
to take legal action to obtain the rehabilitation and support that
their insurance guarantees.
It pays to keep all your paperwork, correspondence, emails, and
medical reports on file. Take notes during meetings and phone calls
to keep a permanent record. The more details you have, the easier
it will be to establish your case for insurance claims,
compensation and any legal action.
In the long-term, it can pay to keep a diary that records what
ongoing rehabilitation is taking place in the home setting, along
with ongoing issues being faced and any progress made as
Obtaining hard evidence of a Brain
Some people might refuse to believe a Brain Injury exists unless
there is firm medical proof. A moderate to severe Brain Injury
often leaves scarring that will clearly show on MRI or CAT scans.
The brain does have a limited ability to heal itself; and in milder
cases, a scan conducted years or even months after the injury may
no longer show evidence, although the cognitive problems frequently
It is harder to provide hard evidence for a diffuse Brain Injury -
this is where the damage occurs at a microscopic level throughout
the brain, and will not show on scans despite the huge impact it
can have on so many aspects of a person's life because its effects
are widespread through the brain.
In these latter cases a neuropsychological assessment is used to
identify a Brain Injury, its effects and the strategies needed for
rehabilitation. Testing includes a variety of different methods for
evaluating areas such as attention span, memory, language, new
learning, spatial perception, problem-solving, social judgment,
motor abilities and sensory awareness.
These tests can be quite expensive. Universities offering programs
in neuropsychology often provide evaluations at low cost or on a
sliding scale as part of their student training.
Education is the key
Most people will usually be more understanding once they
understand more about brain disorders such as traumatic brain
injury, and particularly its often invisible