Topics: Recovery & Rehabilitation, Traumatic Brain Injury

The Differences in Diagnosis of Traumatic Brain Injury

There is much debate around what makes a brain injury a brain injury and a concussion a concussion because of the similarities in symptoms, diagnosis, etc.

My personal diagnosis is a Severe Traumatic Brain Injury but that wasn’t always the case. After my initial accident in 2012, I was diagnosed with a concussion after presenting concussive-like symptoms. There is much controversy around the definition of a concussion but it usually results after a blow to the head. They can also occur with violent shaking of the head or body. Symptoms of concussions include:

  • noise and light sensitivity,
  • headache,
  • dizziness,
  • and fatigue to list a few.
Common concussions usually last between 7 and 10 days, with most people seeing symptoms decrease or disappear altogether after that time period.

Personally, my symptoms didn’t dissolve after the initial two weeks and they worsened. From there I was diagnosed with Post-Concussion Syndrome. This is a complex disorder with various symptoms. Symptoms that people may experience that differ from concussions include:

  • irritability,
  • anxiety,
  • insomnia,
  • loss of concentration and memory;
  • ringing in the ears,
  • and blurry vision.
This differs in the time frame of recovery. Instead of 7 to 10 days of recovery like a concussion, Post-Concussion Syndrome can last weeks, sometimes months before seeing a decrease in symptoms or healing.

Some experts believe post-concussion symptoms are caused by structural damage to the brain. Often times, this syndrome is linked to brain injuries. In some ways, Post-Concussion Syndrome is still a mystery due to the fact that not all people who have concussions experience Post-Concussion Syndrome. More research is still needed to better understand how and why Post-Concussion Syndrome happens after some injuries and not others.

Nine months after my initial injury date, my head injury was ruled a Severe Traumatic Brain Injury. This ruling gave a better definition to the severity of my head injury as well as a better diagnosis of what my future would look like and a greater understanding of what was needed in my recovery plan.

Treatment differs between concussions, post-concussion syndrome, and TBI's. Throughout my personal recovery, I was enrolled in Physical, Occupational, Sensory and Behavioral Therapy to rehabilitate my brain as well as manage my symptoms. For me, I benefited greatly from vestibular therapy, which is a mix of sensory and occupational. Struggling with balance, blurred vision and a host of symptoms, vestibular therapy helped to create new pathways in my brain that didn’t exist before.

Recovery is different for everyone. Depending on the severity of your injury, how many concussions you’ve experienced prior as well as general risk factors, impacts not only your type of recovery but also your recovery time. I think that it’s easy to rush recovery so that you can get back to your “normal.” It’s important to realize that recovery is not always measured by time or therapy sessions but rather becomes a way of life. Personally, I continued therapy for three and a half years before I saw initial healing. After being released from therapy, I still didn’t feel that I had reached a full recovery. After nearly 7 years, I still find myself working on “recovering” from lasting symptoms. Unfortunately, there are still many unknowns about the brain and there isn’t a magical fix or treatment plan that is successful for everyone, but a correct diagnosis is helpful to define what’s next in the coming stages.

Download the Simplified Guide to a Traumatic Brain Injury

Carley Dole

Written by Carley Dole

Carley Dole is a public relations and psychology student who suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury as a teenager. Her experiences led to public speaking and spreading awareness about the effects of TBI's and spinal cord injuries through public speaking, blog posts, and other resources. She is currently a freelance graphic designer, working with many diverse non-profit organizations.

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