Cognitive Disorders Following Traumatic Brain Injury


  • A traumatic brain injury (TBI) can be caused by a fall or accident, or by being hit on the head by a hard object. When a person's head is moved forcefully, the brain can hit against the inside of the skull and be damaged. The skull is made up of the bones of the head, which enclose and protect the brain. Falls and other accidents can cause skull bones to break. If the brain hits against broken pieces of the skull, it can be damaged. Signs and symptoms may include headaches, dizziness, and loss of consciousness (being unable to be woken up). A TBI may be mild, moderate, or severe (very bad). This rating depends on if and how long you were unconscious, and the problems that you have after the TBI.

  • A TBI can damage the parts of the brain that help a person think and remember, causing a cognitive disorder. Cognitive disorders can lead to changes in your thoughts and actions. Caregivers may do brain scans and other tests to learn more about your TBI. Treatment may include medicine and rehabilitation, including physical, occupational, speech, and talk therapy. Most people who have a mild TBI get well within six months after the injury. Some people have mental, physical, or emotional problems for a long time. Your signs and symptoms may continue to decrease or even go away in the years after having a TBI.


Keep a current list of your medicines:

Include the amounts, and when, how, and why you take them. Take the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency. Throw away old medicine lists. Use vitamins, herbs, or food supplements only as directed.

Over-the-counter medicine:

Over-the-counter (OTC) medicines are the kind that you can buy without an order (prescription) from a caregiver. OTC medicine may be used for many reasons, such as decreasing pain or a high body temperature (fever). These medicines are safe for most people to use and can help you feel better when used correctly. However, they can cause serious problems when they are not used correctly. People using certain other medicines or that have certain medical conditions are at a higher risk for problems. Using too much, or using these medicines for longer than the label says can also cause problems. Follow directions on the label carefully. If you have questions, talk to your caregiver.

Keep all appointments with your caregivers.

  • You may need to see a mental health worker (talk therapist). This caregiver will help you cope with new feelings of sadness, anger, and worry that can come after having a TBI.

Self-care measures with a cognitive disorder:

The following are some ways you can help yourself or your child get better:

  • Take your medicine as ordered. You may be given medicine to decrease your signs and symptoms. The medicine may help take away headaches and pain. It may also help you be more alert, think faster, or pay attention better. Do not give your child any medicine without asking his caregiver first.

  • Drink enough liquids. Caregivers may tell you to drink at least eight, 8-ounce cups of water or sports drinks every day. These liquids can help your muscles work well. Do not drink alcohol (such as beer, wine, or whiskey). Drinking alcohol increases your risk of having another TBI. If you drink alcohol, you are at a higher risk of abusing substances, such as alcohol, after having a TBI Substance abuse means using drinking too much alcohol too often, or using illegal (street) drugs.

  • Get enough sleep and rest. Make sure you get a lot of sleep at night. Rest during the day. Slowly return to doing your usual activities as you are able to. If your child had a TBI, talk with his caregiver about when to send him back to school.

  • Help prevent another TBI. Avoid activities that might cause a TBI. A person who has more than one concussion can have problems later, such as remembering and doing activities. Playing sports, driving a car, and climbing a ladder can put you at risk of getting injured. Move slowly and carefully after your injury, and while you are getting better.

Do your rehabilitation program:

Caregivers will help you learn to take care of yourself as much as possible. Caregivers may help you improve your speech and your ability to walk. You may also learn ways to pay attention and remember things better. Skills learned in rehabilitation can be used at home. The following tips may help you if you have a poor memory:

  • Write things down if you have trouble remembering.

  • Use an appointment book to remind you what to do each day.

  • Set up a routine and follow it daily to avoid forgetting to do a task.


  • You are sleepier or harder to wake up than usual.

  • Your signs or symptoms get worse during the first few days after the injury.

  • You have new headaches that are very bad, or that get worse after the injury.

  • You still have signs and symptoms of a concussion, such as headaches and dizziness, more than six weeks after the TBI.


  • You are vomiting very hard, or you cannot stop vomiting. You may also have a headache that is quickly getting worse.

  • You are confused, or you or others notice changes in your personality or actions. You may not know people you should know, or where you are.

  • You have blood or clear fluid coming out of your ears or nose.

  • Your pupils (black part in the center of the eye) are unequal in size, and this is new for you. Seek immediate help if you have new problems with vision, such as blurry or double vision.

  • Your speech is slurred (unclear), or does not make sense.

  • Your arms or legs feel weak, or you lose feeling in a body part.

  • You have new problems with coordination (balance and movement).

  • You stop responding to others, or you faint. Get immediate help if you have a seizure (convulsion).

  • You want to hurt or kill yourself.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Cognitive Disorders Following Traumatic Brain Injury (Aftercare Instructions)