The effects of traumatic brain injury (TBI) can be lifelong, but veterans often receive no instruction on how to deal with these chronic effects. And that’s a problem, because military service members are at risk of sustaining such injuries from explosions and other events during training and combat. The physical and mental effects can lead to a variety of health issues and mental health problems that linger after becoming a veteran. As a result, it’s important to continue getting help for any symptoms that persist from your injury. Below, you will learn about TBI and how it can impact your life years later as well as where you can get help.

What Is a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)?

What Is a Traumatic Brain Injury?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) characterizes traumatic brain injury (TBI) as a sudden injury that causes damage to the brain. The impact affects how the brain works and can cause death or disability. Traumatic brain injuries vary in severity from mild, to moderate, to severe. While many people recover from their injuries within a few days, moderate to severe injuries can result in bruising, torn brain tissue, and permanent brain damage.

Nearly 375,000 veterans were diagnosed with a TBI between 2000-2017. These injuries are usually sustained as a result of combat exposure or training injuries. Without the necessary support, veterans coping with the long-term effects of a moderate or severe traumatic brain injury may turn to drugs and alcohol for relief.

Different Types of Traumatic Brain Injuries

There are several different types of traumatic brain injuries. However, they fall under two main categories: closed brain injury and penetrating brain injury. A closed brain injury can occur when the head is rapidly moved backward or forward, which shakes the brain inside the skull. This movement results in bruising and tearing of brain tissue and blood vessels. These types of injuries are most often caused by motor vehicle accidents and falls.


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On the other hand, penetrating brain injuries, also known as open-head injuries, occur when there is a break in the skull. For instance, when a bullet or shrapnel pierces the brain during combat exposure. But any type of trauma to the head requires a professional evaluation to ensure a proper recovery.

The severity of TBI can be determined through neuroimaging tests such as a CT scan. Individuals also undergo the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS), which assesses patients to objectively describe the extent of their impairment following a TBI. The scale uses three categories to check responsiveness: eye-opening, motor, and verbal responses. Using the GCS helps early management of patients with head and brain injuries.

What Causes TBI?

Traumatic brain injury is caused by a disruption in normal brain functioning as a result of a jolt, bump, or blow to the head. Injury to the brain can result in a variety of health concerns including contusions, hematomas, and more. These are all treated according to their symptoms and may require rehabilitation. With that said, there are several causes of TBI that veterans are at risk of experiencing.

Causes of a closed head injury include:

  • Falling
  • Motor vehicle crash
  • Being struck by an object
  • Blast injuries from an explosion

Causes of a penetrating injury include:

  • Being hit by a bullet or shrapnel
  • Being hit by a weapon
  • An injury that causes a bone fragment to penetrate the skull

Accidents such as natural disasters, explosions, and other extreme events can cause both a closed and penetrating injury in the same person. Older adults may have a slower recovery than young adults. However, recovery is possible with the right treatment methods. Don’t wait to get help if the effects of TBI are impacting your quality of life.

Symptoms of a Traumatic Brain Injury

The symptoms of a TBI depend on the type of injury. People with mild TBIs can experience:

  • A brief loss of consciousness
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Confusion
  • Blurred vision or tired eyes
  • Fatigue or lethargy
  • Blood pressure changes
  • Ringing in ears
  • A bad taste in the mouth
  • Trouble with attention, concentration, memory, or thinking
  • Behavioral or mood changes

A moderate to severe TBI is characterized by the same symptoms as a mild TBI but can also cause:

  • Pupil dilation in one or both eyes
  • A persistent or worsening headache
  • Recurring nausea and vomiting
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Slurred speech
  • Being unable to wake up from sleep
  • Weakness or numbness in limbs
  • Loss of coordination
  • Increased confusion, agitation, or restlessness

Symptoms such as anxiety, depression, mood swings, and irritability are also characteristic of PTSD. Moreover, many veterans who sustain a TBI also develop PTSD. These two conditions often coincide because of the stressful events that cause them.

Complications of TBI

Research estimates that nine to 28 percent of veterans experience a TBI. While some of these injuries occur prior to military service, traumatic brain injuries are a common health concern for veterans. The long-term results of a traumatic brain injury can result in a permanent disability that may require temporary or lifelong rehabilitation. In this case, TBI can result in various deficits, personality or psychiatric changes, as well as traumatic epilepsy.

People with traumatic brain injury may turn to drugs and alcohol to self-medicate. Chronic pain and health conditions that develop as a result of TBI can be difficult to accept. New physical and mental limitations can make it harder to do the things you love. On top of these new challenges, you may be struggling with PTSD from the event that left you injured. Without the emotional and physical support you need, you may find it easier to cope with unpleasant or painful symptoms by misusing prescription drugs, illicit drugs, or drinking. However, substance use can worsen PTSD symptoms and health problems caused by TBI as well as lead to addiction.

Therefore, getting the support you need is essential for recovery. If you’re a veteran currently struggling with PTSD and addiction as a result of a traumatic brain injury, Heroes’ Mile can help you overcome the challenges holding you back.

Recovery Options for Veterans 

Recovery Options for Veterans

At Heroes’ Mile, we offer a wide range of inpatient and outpatient programs to help veterans overcome the silent battles of addiction and mental health struggles. The effects of a traumatic brain injury can be temporary, but the incident that caused it can stay with you for years to come. This is what causes addiction and related mental health problems when veterans don’t get the help they need. 

The drug and alcohol detox program help veterans begin their recovery journey but daily therapy can help ease the worries surrounding recovery. Many individuals are concerned with the new challenges as a result of their injuries. Whether it’s about getting back to work or enjoying hobbies, therapy provides the necessary support to cope with these changes. Physical therapy and rehabilitation can help your body recover, but mental health treatment can give you the strength you need to overcome these challenges. 

Treatment modalities to help with long-term recovery include: 

Heroes’ Mile is a veteran-exclusive treatment center. Therefore, veterans can share their experiences surrounded by peers and staff who understand them. Through a variety of evidence-based treatment programs, you can get the help you need to feel like yourself again. 

Heroes’ Mile Can Help 

If you’re ready to overcome your battle with addiction following a traumatic brain injury, we’re ready to help. Call our admissions specialists at 888-838-6692 or fill out a confidential contact form online. We’ll help you take the first step on the road to recovery.


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