Synapse email updates


What's in an update?

Synapse endeavours to keep you updated with the latest information and news. If you would like to receive our monthly E-newsletter, please fill out your information above and we can keep you in the know!


Get The Facts

When they don't believe you have a Brain Injury

Information Services


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 examples include:


  • "The insurance company says I'm fine and don't need rehabilitation"
  • "My girlfriend says I'm self-centred and don't care about her anymore"
  • "Mum and dad think it's all in my head, that I'm making all this up"
  • "The boss thinks I'm being lazy and avoiding working too hard."


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 everyone. 


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 cases

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 well. 


Obtaining hard evidence of a Brain Injury?

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 remain.

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 nature. 


Our partners