Can a Brain Injury Cause a Permanent Personality Change?


The brain not only controls all bodily functions, but it’s also the center of our being—allowing us to think, remember, and experience emotions. The human brain is well protected beneath a bony skull and a cushioning layer of fluid, but the delicate, neuron-packed brain tissue is vulnerable to injuries when the head sustains a heavy blow, a violent jarring motion, or puncture injuries. Traumatic brain injuries vary in severity from mild concussions to catastrophic brain injuries with significant impairment or death.

Those suffering from brain injuries experience many challenges on the road to reaching their maximum recovery level, but often, one of the most difficult consequences of a brain injury to both victims and their families is the apparent personality changes that sometimes occur as a result of the injury.

Do Brain Injuries Really Cause Personality Changes?

personality changes after a brain injury

When a portion of the brain suffers a traumatic injury, it may cease to function at its former capacity. Over time, other regions of the brain may develop new pathways to compensate for damaged areas through rehabilitation and natural healing. Because damaged tissue in the brain changes the way a brain understands and processes information, the injury victim’s personality may reflect this change. But does the individual’s personality actually change as a result of brain injury? According to medical researchers, the personality of a brain injury victim remains intact, but because mood changes caused by the injury may be ongoing or long-term, it gives the appearance of a changed personality.

Even a mild concussion may cause alterations in mood that present as a personality change. Around 80% of concussion victims experience emotional symptoms following a concussion. Most concussion victims reestablish healthy pathways in the brain within a few weeks, but those suffering moderate to severe brain injuries may experience more significant and longer-lasting alterations in mood and behavior.

Common Changes to Mood That Impact Perceived Personality in Brain Injury Victims

Because no two brains are the same and no two injuries identical, brain injury symptoms vary widely between individuals even when they experience similar injuries. Common symptoms of emotional changes in those with traumatic brain injuries include the following:

  • Becoming quickly frustrated or angry
  • Trouble regulating emotions
  • Laughing or crying inappropriately
  • Inability to express emotions
  • Obsessive, inflexible behavior
  • Aggression
  • Restlessness
  • Inappropriate social behaviors including interrupting others, making out-of-context comments, or sexual inappropriateness
  • Poor impulse control
  • Difficulty beginning or completing tasks

Many of these perceived personality changes result from depression and anxiety. The sense of loss experienced by a brain injury victim who loses their independence or is unable to continue in their former career either temporarily or permanently can exacerbate emotional problems associated with brain injuries. That’s why it’s so important to get the help from an experienced St. Louis brain injury attorney for these complex cases.

The Location of the Brain Injury May Impact Personality and Behavior Changes

When the brain injury impacts the connection between the cerebral cortex—which controls memory, awareness, perception, and cognition—and the limbic system which triggers responses like emotions and behaviors, the result is a literal disconnect between the stimuli and the individual’s response. This causes the injury victim to have responses and reactions that are different than before and may be out of sync with the situation.

Are Personality Changes Permanent After a Brain Injury?

A brain injury disrupts the way the victim processes and responds to information, but for mild to moderate brain injuries, this typically resolves over time with supportive therapies, medication, and healing. A person experiencing temporary dysfunction in the brain after an injury isn’t the same as one who’s suffered permanent brain damage. Often, controlling the victim’s environment to reduce stimuli helps to minimize the toll the dysfunction takes on the victim’s emotional health.