Acquired brain injury: causes, symptoms and help

July 9, 2024 Acquired Brain Injury Care, Neurological Care

Acquired brain injury: causes, symptoms and help

What is acquired brain injury (ABI)?

Acquired brain injury is an umbrella term for a wide range of brain injuries that occur after birth and are not genetically or congenitally induced. Rather, they are a consequence of various neurological conditions and injuries which make acquired brain injury a complex category. Each individual with ABI has a different experience of rehabilitation and management, there is no one-size-fits-all method.

Causes of acquired brain injury (ABI)

There is a broad range of causes of acquired brain injury. These may be traumatic brain injuries resulting from motor vehicle accidents, falls, explosions, sports injuries and various impact causing blows to the head. Furthermore, medical episodes, such as infections, haemorrhages, strokes and neurological conditions, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington disease, multiple sclerosis are the cause of ABI.

Other common factors include exposure to toxic substances, alcohol or drugs poisoning, lack of oxygen to the brain, tumours and failed brain surgeries.

Symptoms of acquired brain injury (ABI)

Individuals may experience a loss of consciousness directly after a brain injury. While it may be distressing, it is normal not to remember part of your hospital stay. Typically, many people recover well from a brain injury, especially in the early stages along with plenty of rest. Nevertheless, ABI can cause symptoms that severely interfere with daily living and recovery. Thus, it is crucial for healthcare professionals to identify the personal impacts of acquired brain injury and create a tailored treatment plan.

Generally, symptoms can be separated into four categories:

1. Physical effects of acquired brain injury

Many people have long-term physical effects which can often be addressed by rehabilitation, lifestyle adjustments and equipment. However, ABI can cause diverse physical symptoms, such as:

  • Headaches / Fatigue
  • Weakness or paralysis
  • Ataxia / Balance issues / Dizziness
  • Sensory impairment / Speech impediment
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Continence issues

2.  Cognitive effects of acquired brain injury

These are often not obvious and easily distinguished, which can make it rather difficult to recognise and apprehend.

  • Mental capacity issues / Challenges with attention and concentration
  • Memory problems / Issues with feeling motivated
  • Difficulties to reason / Dysfunction of thinking skills – executive dysfunction
  • Self-awareness issues
  • Mental Capacity Issues

3. Emotional effects of acquired brain injury

They are not detectable, unless they show through a person’s behaviour. There are useful techniques to help with managing emotions, as well as aids and adaptations to help with other effects that may be triggering difficult emotions.

  • Worry / Anxiety / Depression
  • Sadness / Anger and frustration
  • Stress / PTSD
  • Struggle with being empathetic
  • Feeling of loss

4. Behavioural effects of acquired brain injury

Closely linked to emotions, often a reflection of internal emotional state, which may become difficult to control.

  • Impulsiveness / Irritability / Aggression
  • Personality change / Post-traumatic amnesia
  • Disinhibition (for example making tactless remarks, using crude or abusive language)
  • Perseveration
  • Egocentricity

Self-help tips and strategies

It is important to pay attention to your doctor in terms of how fast to return back to normal activities, such as childcare and work. Tasks such as making decisions, planning, socialising, writing emails etc, can be as exhausting as other physical tasks. The period of rest after a brain injury should be followed with a steady and gradual return to your usual activities, which also helps your brain to heal.

Create a routine, keep your things organised by having a designated place for items like keys and phone.  Make a ‘to do’ list and add it to your mobile phone calendar – set alarms and reminders. Focus on one thing at a time and break tasks down into smaller steps. Alternate between smaller and larger tasks and activities to avoid overexertion. Relax and rest when needed, get involved in calming activities. Avoid caffeine and screen time closer to bedtime to get a good quality sleep. Stay connected to family and friends and engage in plenty of enjoyable activities, stay active and exercise regularly.

Useful apps and websites

How can Cavendish Homecare help?

At Cavendish Homecare, we deliver exceptional care in the familiar surroundings of your own home. We provide personalised private acquired brain injury home care tailored to individual needs in London and the Home Counties. To learn more about our care services and how we can assist with your needs, please reach out to our team at 020 3008 5210 or email us We are here to discuss further and address any questions or concerns you may have.


About the Author…

Misha Zemkova

Operations Assistant

Starting her career in Health and Social Care with a Certificate of Higher Education from the Open University, Misha Zemkova is committed to making a positive impact.

As a former volunteer at North London Action for the Homeless, Misha stands out for her exceptional ability to connect with people through active listening. With seven years of invaluable experience as a Key Worker for adults with diverse learning disabilities, Misha brings extensive experience and a deep understanding of caring for individuals with unique needs.

Now a pivotal member of the operations team at Cavendish Homecare, Misha actively supports Nurse Managers and the Bookings team in delivering high-quality care. She has demonstrated outstanding commitment to supporting charity partner Cruse Bereavement through events such as the Virtual TCS London Marathon and Light up the Night.

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