Traumatic Brain Injury: Myths, Misconceptions and the Need for Lifelong Healthcare
I don’t have a droopy face, a steel plate in my head, nor am I paralyzed in any region of my body. I have a speech impediment and disfluency, cognitive fatigue, short term memory loss, slow processing of information, noise sensitivity, and attention deficit. I look “normal” and I have a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Social prejudice and negative perceptions of survivors of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) exist. There is a bias, though subtle and underlying, against people with disabilities especially those with closed head injuries. Although there are no obviously visible physical signs, there are disabilities that are not evident of the injury. Thus, it is human nature to “judge a book by its cover,” especially when there is already a preset image of the disabled. There are several questions and/or comments usually made about people with TBI; “they look ok,” “are you retarded?” (A question that was asked after hearing the disabled person speak), “Well, you’re working and doing the same thing before the accident; that means you’re better and no longer have a brain injury and don’t really need any more medical assistance.” These are some of the blatant negative perceptions that are presented to someone with a TBI. What the general (normal) population does not consider is the long-term effects of TBI on the individual. There is no “typical” person with TBI. In discussing the immediate and residual effects of TBI, there are dimensions that vary in several extents. Brain functioning, cognitive skills, behavior changes, and social skills are some of the areas affected by TBI. What is most crucial for understanding people with TBI is to know what happens when a person suffers a brain injury. While I will not go through the medical determinants of what happens to the brain after a head injury, I will argue that the lack of awareness and education is what’s manifesting the myths about TBI. Misinformation, preconceived stereotypes and misguided views are rampant upon the general population and have even seeped into the medical and healthcare field. There were studies done with participants from the general public in which several questions were asked about their perceptions of brain injury including how they could tell if someone had a brain injury, what their understanding of life after brain injury and where they got their ideas about brain injury. (Linden) The responses regarding the common problems caused by having a brain injury showed classifications under categories of physical or cognitive impairments, social and emotional problems. The participants, when asked these questions, referred to physical impairment as an inability to do daily activities and cognitive impairments as intellectually impaired. Because there is still a tremendous amount of research regarding the functioning of the brain, even healthcare professionals, outside of the specialized field of Neurology and Neuropsychology, are ill-informed of the effects of brain damage to the individual; equally, neurologists who care for TBI patients, unless they keep up with the research and updated information regarding brain injuries, have misconceptions. A controversy lies within the healthcare system of having to prove whether the person has a disability or not. The lack of physical evidence on some TBI cases is cause enough to declare the person in question (TBI survivor) “okay,” or healed from the injury. This type of misconception is one of the root-cause issues that prevent society and the legal system from distinguishing the disease from an “event.” (Masel) In one of the studies, the general public’s misconception revealed the item, “A head injury can cause a person to forget things from before the injury but the person may be normal in every other way.” (Masel) TBI may cause some observable deficits such as motor functions, sensory and speech functioning, the most debilitating...
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