This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Let me begin by saying that I don't know if my answers are "common" and happen to every TBI victim. But I do know that I suffered from them after my own injury, and there is substantial research available online for them, so clearly the symptoms aren't solely isolated to me alone. Specifically, the first symptom is (1) memory loss. After asking I had zero memory capacity for about 5 months. Then very poor memory for up to 2 full years. Even still, 6 years later, I'm not confident my memory is fully restored. (2) The most noticeable side effects for me is my right side peripheral vision loss, so I can longer drive or play most sports. (3) Third most noticeable are muscle spasms and involuntary muscle flexion. (My left bicep, shoulder, and ring finger, as well as my jaw all flex involuntarily throughout the day, every day). (4) Perhaps most concerning for third parties is the reduced emotional control and stability. These days I can get really irritated by seemingly irrelevant, almost unnoticeable factors. What's more, during my five months of no memory, apparently I flew into uncontrollable rages for no reason whatsoever and thus alienated some of my best friends from college. (5) Lastly, I incurred seasonal allergy symptoms despite not ever having allergies to anything before. I take some OTC allergy treatmen meds that do seem like they work, so unclear if it really is allergies or not. Also I think that this last symptom is the least likely to be a common problem for TBI victims, but I bring it up because I think alterations in a person's immune response and general body functioning is likely quite ubiquitous. Hope that helps!
Answer transcribed from the Brightway Answers interview with speech-language pathologist Amber Kloess:
As a speech-language pathologist, I see a number of symptoms unfortunately but I'll talk about the most common ones.
The biggest thing I look at when I first meet a patient is their attention - so are they able to focus on one thing at a time. It could be two minutes, it could be a half hour. I look at if they’re able to switch between tasks, like if you were working on an email, could you pick up the phone and call someone and then go back to writing that email after. There's also multitasking. So if you're cooking dinner, are you able to hold a conversation with your spouse or significant other?
Secondly, memory is a huge component of cognitive communicative functioning. There are different types of memory: immediate, short-term memory, or delayed recall can be a huge challenge and then also the long-term memory side.
For cognitive communication, executive functioning skills are huge, and this is where I see a lot of deficits. Executive functioning skills are housed right in that frontal lobe of the brain and can encompass a lot of skills: planning, initiation, problem solving, organization of thought, judgment. Being able to judge a situation is very important in life and often brain injury survivors aren't able to do that. Reasoning, impulse control, time management, and awareness. There’s also metacognition, which is the awareness of one's own thought processing, so like knowing what you know - and that can be a challenge too.
Another big thing I work on with survivors is working memory - being able to take in information, manipulate it in your mind, and then express it in a different way. So for instance if you read a news article you can hold on to that information and maybe you're able to answer questions about it later - that's working memory.
Two other common things are cognitive rigidity and cognitive fatigue. Cognitive rigidity is the inability to be flexible, so adapting to new situations or understanding the perspective of others. That's one of the biggest things that I see in my rehab practice. Cognitive fatigue is if we work a muscle hard enough we're going to tire it out. Our brain is like a muscle, so we can get what's called brain fog. I’ll talk to my patients about when to take a break and for how long in order to recover to be able to go back to what they were doing.