Dealing With Anger and Aggression
As we all know, the brain is a very powerful and mysterious organ. I think having a brain injury is not like having a broken finger, or an injured shoulder. Many areas of the brain remain unknown to science. Some scientists have proven that the uninjured portion of the brain can "take over" for the injured area. That term is known as post injury "neuroplasticity." However, in my opinion, the positive attitude to make this work must come from the survivor and the people around the survivor.
Many people write to me about their loved ones being angry or agressive and not being able to control it.
Here are some suggestions: (As stated on my web site, I am not a health care professional. It is necessary to discuss all of these ideas with you doctor or therapist before attempting them. And, as I have written before, everyone is different and this may or may not work for you.)
1. Get a great neurologist. There are medications that might be able to help control it. Discuss these with your neurologist. But in order for the meds to work, the survivor must have a positive attitude and support from a strong advocate.
2. Discuss the medications that you or your loved one is presently taking with your neurologist. Some medication's side effects may actually promote anger and aggression. Also, some combination of drugs can cause aggression. If you find out that it is one of the side effects, discuss with your neurologist about altering the dosage, or changing meds, but only if he or she thinks that is a good idea.
3. I believe that the survivor must make a choice. "Do I want this brain injury to control me, or do I want to control it?" "Do I want to be alone, with no job or friends, and feeling miserable, or do I want to have people whom I care about around me, and the most meaningful life I can manage." Once the choice is made, we go no further, or we do something about the anger.
4. Keeping a journal. I believe that it is very beneficial to have the survivor record or write their feelings. If it is a negative feeling, try to write a positive one next to it. Example: "I lost my career because of this freaking brain injury!" Next to that, write, "I could be dead, but I survived, and there must be a good reason for it."
5. Try to realize, each time one becomes furious, that it is probably from the injury, there is no real outside reason for it, and therefore it can possibly be controlled. Being educated to why one feels the way they do creates empowerment. If one knows what to expect as the angry feeling starts to overwhelm them, one can be ready for it, and therefore be ready to try to control it.
6. Counting to ten. It can be effective if the person wants it to.
7. Going outside if possible. Going outside is a great stress reliever.
8. If it is a male survivor, the neurologist can check out the testosterone level in his bloodstream. If the brain can regulate many bodily functions such as blood pressure, it just might regulate hormones. An imbalance of testosterone might be responsible for too much anger.
9. Realize that you are not alone. One of the most frequent complaints to me about living with the brain injured survivor is that of the anger factor, and yet they think they are the only ones experiencing this. Seek out others who have gone through this, and listen to their suggestions. It is imperative for men and women survivors and caregivers to find a local support group, or if that is impossible, seek out support on the Internet. There are many effective web sites where survivors and caregivers can share stories. In helping others cope, one actually helps themselves as well.