Loved ones may recognize TBI symptoms in veterans before doctors
Traumatic brain injury is one of the most common types of injuries for American soldiers returning from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, but the symptoms of TBI aren’t always obvious or easily recognizable. Sometimes called the “silent injury,” TBI often evades state-of-the-art medical imaging and diagnosis simply because it can be present even when there are no visible signs of damage to the brain. Moreover, given the vast complexities of the brain, TBI symptoms are not always the same in every person. So how do you know if the veteran in your life has TBI?
Behavioral changes are the biggest giveaway that a veteran may be living with TBI. And those changes, often subtle and inconsistent, are more easily recognized by spouses and other loved ones who know the victim well. In a military setting, TBI can often slip by unnoticed for months and possibly years.
Family of a Vet (FOV), an organization that helps families of service men and women deal with TBI, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and other aftershocks of combat, has published a list of clues that can help families recognize the signs of TBI in their loved ones. Though not scientific, these examples demonstrate the kind of behavioral changes typically linked to TBI and can play a critical role in helping a veteran get the proper medical screening and testing he or she needs.
“Something about your veteran seems different,” FOV’s website says. “And not just the different that you get when you take someone away from military discipline. This is a completely different ‘different.’”
When you fought he remembered every word you said that he didn’t like. Now, he can’t even remember you fought.
When you sent him to the store, that perfect military mind recollected every detail of what he needed to pick up for himself, if not always you. Now, he calls from the store because he can’t remember why he’s there.
When there was no money on that military pay he pinched pennies for months to be able to buy you a birthday gift. Now, it’s just another day on the calendar in his mind. He knows it exists, but he can’t pinpoint the date anymore.
He makes strange comments, like “you never tell me you love me anymore” but you just told him an hour ago.
You discuss your plans for the weekend over dinner on Wednesday and Friday he says, “So, what do you want to do this weekend?”
The federal government estimates that one-third of all American troops serving in Afghanistan and Iraq has received a TBI. That means more than 660,000 veterans are struggling with forgetfulness, mood swings, depression, diminished cognitive ability, and other symptoms that deeply affect their lives and the lives of everyone around them.