Frontal lobe injuries; the invisible disability
Many neurological conditions can affect the brains Frontal Lobe. The frontal lobe is the part of the brain that controls our emotional functions and personality as well as cognitive – executive functions (such as problem solving) and some motor functions (such as fine motor skills and motor planning). This area can often be severely affected as a result of a traumatic brain injury (TBI) or Stroke. If a person recovers well physically from their injury, then subtle changes in the frontal lobe are not always very obvious to the individual themselves or to others. People who have frontal lobe damage can also lack insight or have a full understanding into their issues. Although these subtle changes can be difficult to initially notice the impact of some ones day to day living can be huge.
BBC Three recently aired a programme called ‘Me and My New Brain’. This programme followed four young people who had suffered from a brain injury. Each person had faced different difficulties and challenges, the programme demonstrated these effects of brain injury really clearly. The lady that assisted with making the documentary, Charlie, had suffered a brain injury herself after a snowboarding accident. She had gone on to recover physically and cognitively very well and to talk to her one may not notice any lasting issues. Through following her story on the programme it was apparent how the initially hidden deficits from her brain injury really impacted on her life.
Living with someone who has a frontal lobe injury can be challenging. Often the person presents with personality changes, which can be on a mild to significant spectrum. Maintaining relationships with friends, colleagues and loved ones can become difficult. Brain injuries can alter ones inhibitions, self-regulation and change their values. A person suffering from a brain injury may become inflexible, aggressive, tearful, disinhibited or apathetic. They may also be emotionally labile – swinging from one mood to another with little warning. If the person has some insight into the impact of their own behaviour and changed abilities this can lead to depression. When someone you know becomes essentially a different person it can be difficult to understand, tolerate and care for them.
Subtle cognitive problems may often go unnoticed and may be attributed to other traits such as someone being distractible, lazy, scatty or disorganised. However those that knew a person before their injury may realise that this is not a ‘normal ‘presentation for the person who is recovering from a brain injury. Cognitive impairments can be manifested in issues such as; difficulties with planning ahead, organising ones-self, overcoming problems as they arise, reasoning and judging situations, abstract thinking, memory and learning new things.
Occupational therapy can help one to overcome some of the difficulties that may be experienced through brain injury or frontal lobe damage. This may be through learning strategies to manage difficulties or compensatory techniques to assist with managing the issues.
Please contact OT Partners at firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to discuss any of the above information further or to refer to our service.