Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence

Information for Professionals

Traumatic Brain Injury and Domestic Violence

Information for Domestic Violence Service Providers

Difficulties caused by TBI

The most common symptoms of TBI are headaches, fatigue, memory loss, depression, and difficulty communicating. TBI can lead to mild, moderate or severe impairments to cognition (thinking), emotions, behavior, and physical functioning, which can cause problems with activities of daily living, such as:

The most common symptoms are headaches, fatigue, memory loss, depression, and difficulty communicating.

Many effects of TBI fall under more than one category.

Cognitive difficulties

  • Reduced attention span.
  • Short-term and/or long-term memory loss; memory distortions.
  • Disorganization.
  • Decreased ability to:
    • Concentrate.
    • Solve problems.
    • Think straight.
    • Think abstractly.
    • Learn new information.
    • Follow complicated directions.
    • Identify objects and their functions.
    • Spell, write, read and work with numbers.
    • Communicate (find the right words, construct sentences, understand written or spoken communication, interpret facial expressions and other non-verbal cues).

Difficulties with executive functioning

  • Making decisions.
  • Considering long-term consequences; predicting the outcomes of one’s choices.
  • Setting goals.
  • Prioritizing, planning and organizing.
  • Taking initiative or feeling motivated.
  • Starting and finishing actions.
  • Flexibility – changing course when needed.
  • Regulating one’s impulses. This can lead to socially inappropriate behavior, and is referred to as disinhibition.
  • Self-monitoring and self-awareness – sometimes people with brain injuries don’t recognize their own deficits.

Changes in behavior, personality or temperament

  • Depression.
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Irritability – easily becoming agitated, aggressive or anxious.
  • Impatience; difficulty tolerating frustration.
  • Rapidly changing emotions; mood swings.
  • Under- or over-reacting
  • Expressing emotions in ways that are inappropriate (e.g., laughing during a serious conversation, or shouting when others are whispering).
  • Avoiding people, including family and friends.

Physical difficulties

  • Fatigue.
  • Sensory problems:
    • Hearing loss; ringing or buzzing in ears.
    • Vision changes: blurred or double vision, blindness.
    • Sensitivity to noise or bright lights.
    • Loss of ability to smell or taste
  • Headaches, neck pain.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Dizziness, difficulty balancing.
  • Weakness or numbness.
  • Seizures.
  • Decreased coordination in limbs or in speech muscles (lips, tongue).
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control.
  • Insomnia.
Next: Screening for TBI