Brain Waves: UAB Traumatic Brain Injury Model System Newsletter Volume 14 | Number 2 | Page 2


Managing Behavior Problems after TBI : Agitation

For families who have a loved one with a traumatic brain injury ( TBI ), behavior problems can be very challenging . To help families , the University of Alabama at Birmingham Traumatic Brain Injury Model System ( UAB-TBIMS ) is providing a series of articles on understanding and managing many of the most challenging behavior problems after TBI . Here , we focus on agitation .
What is agitation ?
Agitation is a behavioral episode that can range from restlessness to a more highly emotional state . Examples of restless behaviors are fidgeting , pacing , and moving or swaying from front to back or side to side . Examples of highly emotional behaviors are yelling , swearing , or threatening of violence .
Why do people with TBI become agitated ?
People with TBI do not misbehave on purpose . They act out because their injury caused physical and chemical changes to their brain . These changes result in limited attention span , poor reasoning skills , limited memory , and an inability to hold back their emotional and verbal responses . This makes it hard for people with TBI to stay focused on an activity or solve problems .
Is agitation a life-long problem ?
There is no way to predict who might experience agitation or how long it will last . However , it is only a life-long problem in a few cases .
Agitation is usually a short-term problem during the early stages after injury . During this time , many people with TBI are not fully aware of their surroundings and struggle to form new memories . This confusion leads them to become agitated . Over time , they usually have some level of physical and cognitive recovery . They become more aware of their surroundings and better able form new memories , so they have fewer episodes of agitation .
Can I prevent my loved one from becoming agitated ?
Despite your best efforts , there will probably be occasional episodes of behavior problems , so it is important for you to learn ways to reduce the chance that an episode will happen and manage episodes that do occur .
As a family member , your first step is to manage your own behavior when interacting with your loved one .
• Remain calm and avoid reacting emotionally to what is occurring . You will only make the problem worse if you become emotional .
• Be patient . Since agitation is usually a short-term problem , you might have to “ ride the storm ” for a while if your loved one is experiencing agitation .
• Do not try to control your loved one ’ s behaviors . Your own behavior can be an example of how best to react in a situation , but trying to control someone else ’ s behavior simply leads to frustration for you and your loved one . The only person ’ s behavior you can fully control is your own .
• Do not take behavior outbursts personally , even though your loved one may behave in a very offensive manner and direct comments or actions towards you . Remember , your loved one is only acting out because the changes that happen to the brain makes it hard for your loved one to stop saying the first thing that comes to mind .

Get Involved In UAB Research !

Brave Initiative The University of Alabama in Birmingham ( UAB ) aims to improve the motor deficit of veterans who have sustained a traumatic brain injury . Potential participants must :
• be at least 19 years old and 3 months post TBI ;
• have movement problems or weakness of the arms , but the ability to make at least some limited movements with the more affected hand ;
• have no excessive pain ; and
• be able to undergo MRI
If you believe you meet the criteria above and would like to participate in this study , Go to the website , call 205- 934-9768 , or email for more information .
Project LIFT The University of Alabama at Birmingham Traumatic Brain Injury Model System is evaluating the impact of telephone-based health education programs on health , lifestyle , and aspects of quality of life for people with TBI and their families . Participants are asked to :
• answer questions over the phone about your health and lifestyle ;
• have 2 in-person visits to UAB to collect additional information about your health ; and
• participate in a 24-26 week telehealth program designed for people with TBI and their families .
Call 205-934-3345 or email llong @ uabmc . edu for more information .
2 uab . edu / tbi