Dennis Relojo-Howell

How Head Injuries Can Change a Person’s Personality

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Dennis Relojo-Howell, (2021, May 14). How Head Injuries Can Change a Person’s Personality. Psychreg on Personality Psychology. https://www.psychreg.org/head-injuries-can-change-a-persons-personality/
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Are you or your family member experiencing personality changes post-head injury? Here’s why.

Experiencing a head injury can have long-term consequences for the victim, as well as their family. The truth is, although the consequences of a minor brain injury, like concussion, can bounce back, there are more permanent effects post-injury.

In fact, head injuries can sometimes cause permanent personality changes. If you’re suffering from emotional and financial distress, like this, a head injury solicitor can help you to receive compensation to help you pick up the pieces. First, though, it’s important to understand why these personality or mood changes might occur.

Here are some information to help you to understand why you, or your family member, are experiencing these changes.

Why do personalities change post-head injury?

Personality changes can originate from two sources following a brain injury. These are:

  • Physiological changes in the brain, which physically affect how the brain stores and processes information, as well as makes decisions
  • Emotional reactions to the life changes that occur following an injury

For minor injuries, like concussion, the connections between your neurons can be briefly disrupted, causing temporary changes. These can last few a few weeks, and usually culminate in emotional shifts and mood swings.

For as much as 30% of concussion patients, however, this arguably inefficient way of processing information can result in long-lasting symptoms. This can sometimes occur even in mild concussion cases, and sometimes treatment is necessary.

More extensive personality changes largely depend on whereabouts the injury occurs. For example, damage to the cerebral cortex can affect memory, attention and perception, whereas the limbic system is responsible for emotions and behaviour. For those whose prefrontal cortex is damaged, this can have permanent changes to the personality.

What kind of mood changes can occur after a head injury?

After a head injury, mood changes might occur, whether these are short or long term. Some examples of how this might affect the victim’s mood could include:

  • Irritability
  • Anger
  • Social anxiety
  • General anxiety
  • Depression
  • Overwhelm
  • Mood swings
  • Teariness
  • Sense of loss
  • Guilt
  • Confusion
  • Sadness
  • PTSD

Of course, these symptoms are not changes in personality, per se. The affected person might just seem and feel different, with their personality buried under these feelings.

What’s more, many of the above symptoms might be brought on from the physical struggles after a head injury. For example, basic tasks like cooking, writing, and sports can become difficult to do. This struggle can then exacerbate any neurological symptoms faced.

That said, over time, and with the right treatment, these mood changes can dissipate.

What kind of personality changes can occur after a head injury?

The same can’t be said for those who experience complete personality changes post-head injury.

According to Headway, one of the worst consequences of a head injury, particularly for the victim’s family members, is a personality change. This is different to a mood change, as moods are temporary, whereas a change in personality can often be more permanent.

Some of the most common behavioural and emotional problems people with traumatic brain injury include:

  • Verbal and physical outbursts
  • Impulsive behaviour
  • Negativity
  • Intolerance
  • Apathy
  • Lack of empathy
  • Egocentricity
  • Rigidity and inflexibility
  • Risky behaviour
  • Lack of motivation or initiative
  • Poor judgement and disinhibition

In many cases, the victim of the injury might be unaware of these changes, and this can be very isolating for family and friends. It can lead to a sense of loss for those involved, as they can feel as though they have lost the person they once knew.

Case studies of where a head injury has changed a person’s personality

To give you a sense of how dramatic some personality changes can be, and how they happen, here are some historical case studies:

Gage the Construction Foreman

In 1848, a 25-year-old construction foreman named Gage worked for a railroad company. During the works, explosives were used to blast away some rock formations, and the procedure required explosive powder and a tamping iron rod. Gage was briefly distracted, and detonated the powder, sending the rod flying through his cheek.

The rod pierced his skull, travelling through the front of his brain, right where the frontal lobe and prefrontal cortex is situated. This is the area responsible for emotions, impulse control, and social interaction, amongst other things.

After physically recovering, Gage experienced various behavioural changes. Essentially, he turned from a well-mannered businessman to an irresponsible, rude and aggressive being. He couldn’t make any good decisions, changing his life completely.

Eadweard the Photographer

Eadweard Muybridge, photographer and forerunner of motion pictures in 1860, was involved in a stagecoach accident. He sustained a brain injury to the orbitofrontal cortex, and developed personality traits completely askew from his former self.

Those around him noticed he had become aggressive and emotionally unstable, so much so that, on discovering his wife’s infidelity, he killed the man involved.

Head injuries can have a huge effect on personality

As you can see, from this article, a brain injury can have both a long-term and short-term affect. It can also have an effect on the person’s mood, whilst sometimes causing a person to completely alter their personality.

Ultimately, it depends entirely on the type of injury, whereabouts the injury occurs in the brain, and the extent of the impact. Unfortunately, this can also have a knock-on effect on family members and friends of the victim.

The consequences will vary from person to person, and from situation to situation. Finding a support group can really help both the primary and secondary victims of these traumatic events.


Dennis Relojo-Howell is the founder of Psychreg.

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