Impact of Acquired Brain Injury

Impact on everyday life

The common effects of ABI are experienced by the individual and impact on the lives and relationships of those the live, work and socialise with. The impact on life and relationships can be extensive.


Many people may be unable to return to the work they had previously did, they may need significant adjustments in the workplace, need to change job role or indeed be unable to work again.

Leisure Pursuits

Many people either lose all their leisure activities or have to change the activities they participate in.

Marriage or relationships

Marriage and relationship breakdowns are common. For marriages and relationships that do stay together, there can still be a number of significant changes, for example the loss of the sexual component of the relationship, changes in roles and responsibilities.

Impact of ABI on people


Loss of Friendships and social contact is common. People with ABI often report feelings of isolation and find it difficult to interact and engage with existing friends or make new friend.

Impact on family

The majority of people with a Brain Injury are discharged from an Acute Rehabilitation Unit to return to live with their parent/parents or partners this often produces enormous changes and stress for the family unit as well for individual family members. Many families find it a rewarding experience to provide support for a family member with ABI, however in other cases it can be extremely stressful.

Psychological reactions

People with ABI can experience a range of differing psychological reactions. These can commonly include at times experiencing periods of depression, self harm and thoughts of life not worth living, anxiety and low self esteem.

Impact of ABI on the mind

Common challenges and difficulties

Just as the specific effects of ABI will be unique to each individual and their injury, the challenges will also be unique.

  • Difficulty with concentration and keeping their attention on a task

  • Easily confused and overwhelmed

  • Problems learning new information and being able to use knowledge in new situations

  • Slower to process information

  • Difficulty keeping up with conversations, word finding difficulties and following the social rules

  • Producing or understanding language

  • Difficulty being motivated and starting activities, lack of initiative and drive, apathy

  • Getting or staying organised, problem solving and planning

  • Fixed thinking patterns

  • Loss of self-esteem and self-confidence, before and now comparisons, grief and loss

  • Changes in personality, more egocentric, outgoing/introverted

  • Irritability and “short fused”, increased anger, outbursts and difficulties with emotional control

  • Impaired social and personal coping skills, adjustment issues, low mood and anxiety

  • Impulsivity

  • Sexual disinhibition

  • Relationship changes

Impact of ABI goals

Communication Difficulties

Communication problems after a brain injury are very common and can have a major impact on everyday life. Although most of us take it for granted, the ability to communicate is extremely complex and many different parts of the brain are involved. If the parts of the brain responsible for speech and language are damaged it will result in some form of difficulties with communication. The difficulties will depend on the nature and extent of the damage to the brain and can have a major impact on everyday life .

Common Difficulties:

  • Understanding what is said to you

  • Finding the words you are looking for

  • Moving and coordinating movement

There are three principal sources if communication difficulties arising from damage to the brain:

Impact of ABI on speech

Damage to the communication areas of the brain which may cause:

  • Dysphaisa: word finding, sentence construction and comprehension difficulties

  • Dysarthria: Muscle control difficulties

  • Dyspraxia: Muscle co-ordination difficulties

  • Non verbal communication difficulties

Impact of ABI Damage to the cognitive areas of the brain

Damage to the cognitive areas of the brain which may cause:

  • Memory problems

  • Information processing problems

  • Planning problems

  • Inflexible though process

  • Initiation problems

  • Control problems

Impact of ABI Damage to the frontal lobe

Damage to the frontal lobe which may cause social communication deficits. eg:

  • Difficulty following the social rules and conventions of communication

Physical and Sensory Difficulties

Many people can make and excellent physical recovery after brain injury which can mean there are few or even no outward signs that an injury has occurred. There are often physical problems present that are not always so apparent but can have a real impact on daily life. Our body functions are controlled by our brain.

Some common difficulties are:

  • Mobility - Muscle weakness (weakness down one side of the body, general weakness, weakness in both legs or so weak the limb is floppy.)

  • Muscle spasticity (limbs become stiffer and when you try to move them you can feel resistance and the person with ABI can feel pain or the limb gets so tight it cannot move.)

  • Swallowing and eating

  • Coordination, dizziness and balance problems

  • Fatigue and tiredness

  • Sensory - loss or altered vision, smell, hearing or ringing in the ear (tinnitus), taste and altered touch sensations

  • Sensory Integration - how our brain receives and processes sensory information

  • Pain and headaches

  • Bladder and bowel control

  • Epileptic seizures varying from absences and appearing to “switch off” to Grand Mal seizures

Impact of ABI on senses

Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties

Changes in emotions and behaviour are common after an ABI. Everyone who has had a brain injury can be left with some changes in emotional reaction and behaviour. Emotional difficulties following an ABI can be more difficult to see, but can be one of the most challenging impacts of ABI for the individual and for their family. These emotional changes are both a consequence of the areas of the brain that have been damaged, and the process of coming to terms with having an ABI and the impact of this on the individuals life.

Common emotional reactions to ABI include:

  • Recognising, understanding and expressing emotions

  • Ability to regulate emotions

  • Emotional lability - rapid often exaggerated changes in mood (mood swings)

  • Frustration and Anger

  • Anxiety and fear

  • Low mood, depression

  • Loss of confidence and lowered self-esteem

Impact of ABI on mood

Behaviour changes can include:

  • Apathy or reduces motivation

  • Increased irritability

  • Aggressive behaviour (verbal and/or physical)

  • Socially inappropriate behaviour

  • Difficulties relating to others

  • Restlessness/agitation

  • Changes in sexual functioning. Sexual functioning involves physical, emotional and social factors all of which can be affected by and ABI.

Cognitive Difficulties

Cognitive difficulties of a brain injury affect the way a person thinks, learns and remembers. Control of mental/cognitive abilities are located in different parts of the brain. A brain injury can damage some, but not necessarily all cognitive skills such as thinking, memory, understanding, concentration, solving problems and using language.

Some common difficulties are:

  • Slower thinking processes

  • Reduced flexibility in thinking

  • Memory difficulties

  • Difficulties learning new information

  • Attention and concentration problems

  • Poor planning and organisational skills which are also known as executive skills

  • Poor reasoning and judgement

  • Difficulties in recognising objects and people (changes in vision perception)

  • Lack of insight into their situation and life issues

  • Lack of initiative

Impact of ABI on Cognitive Difficulties
Success icon

This website is best experienced in portrait mode, please rotate your device.

Please rotate your device