Cognitive disorders after a traumatic brain injury

A cognitive disorder occurs once the brain does not work properly after sustaining a traumatic brain injury. This injury often damages the front region of the brain which is part of the brain utilized for memory and thinking. In most cases, the individual will have difficulty performing the same things that he/she did before the injury.

What are the indications of a cognitive disorder?

The symptoms can get better, remain the same or become worse over time. They can go away and recur in the future. The individual can experience any of the following:


  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Memory issues
  • Difficulty thinking clearly or performing several tasks at once
  • Diminished ability and learning speed


  • Appetite changes
  • Difficulty sleeping or fatigue
  • Poor balance
  • Headache
  • Difficulty staying cool or warm
  • Problems with ability to taste, smell, see or hear
Traumatic brain injury

In most cases, medications are used to help reduce the symptoms such as pain or headache.


  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty controlling actions, feelings and behavior
  • Impatience

Diagnosing cognitive disorders

The brain can heal for a span of several months after sustaining a traumatic brain injury. The doctor might regularly monitor the brain function with the following:

  • Awareness test is used to measure how well the individual speaks or moves.
  • MRI or CT scan can reveal any damage in the brain.

Treatment for cognitive disorders

The treatment for the cognitive disorders usually depends on the severity of the condition. In most cases, medications are used to help reduce the symptoms such as pain or headache.

Management of the symptoms

The individual should consult a physical therapist so that exercises can be started to help improve movement and strength as well as reduce the pain. An occupational therapist can teach skills to help with daily activities while a speech therapist can help the individual improve his/her speech. In addition, working with a therapist can help the individual cope with his/her feeling after a traumatic brain injury.

One way to improve memory is to list things down often. The individual can utilize a calendar or an appointment book to remind him/her of the tasks for the day and set up a daily routine. The individual should not rush back to his/her daily activities.

When to consult a doctor

  • The individual feels more sleepy or difficulty to wake up than usual
  • The signs and symptoms become worse or last more than 6 weeks after the injury
  • There are issues with movement and balance
  • The legs or arms feel weak or there is loss of sensation in a body part

When to seek emergency care

  • The sizes of the pupils are not equal in size
  • There is drainage of clear fluid or blood from the nose or ears
  • Individual experiences intense or severe pain
  • The individual no longer responds to others or experiences a seizure
  • Slurred speech
  • Confusion and not able to think clearly
  • Severe vomiting


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