Brain Injury Symptoms – Understanding the Symptomatology

Brain Injury Symptoms – Identifying Areas of Need

By Gordon S. Johnson, Jr.

Call me at 800-992-9447

Brain injury symptoms can be hard to explain and sometimes hard to detect.  If your loved one has suffered from traumatic brain injury some of the symptoms may be very evident yet hard to understand.  They may seem as is they aren’t the person they were before the catastrophic accident.  Other symptoms may be vague and at first go undetected.

We have provided a list below of the most common symptoms and to explain them we will go to our TBI Voices project to give examples of real life survivors of brain injury.  Some you will hear in their own words and others may be explained by their caregivers. While listening to the words of the survivor or the caregivers it may become clearer to you that are dealing with brain injury for yourself or your loved ones.  You will find out that you are not alone and learn how they are dealing with their brain injury symptoms.  What better way to learn than from the voice of the survivor.

This section is devoted to dealing with the major symptoms for those who survive a severe brain injury. Elsewhere, we have discussed some of the more significant aspects of symtomatology of mild traumatic brain injury. Click here for our treatment of MTBI and the Post-Concussion Syndrome.

Classifying Brain Injury Symptoms by their Nature

At the bottom of this page is an alphabetical list of symptoms, but the organization of this page, the “next button” sequence, will be classifying  symptoms by their nature.  Throughout our symptom treatment, we have tried to give examples of how those symptoms have impacted real people, with references to findings of our research project, TBI Voices whenever possible.  Most of the brain injury survivors interviewed had a significant number of these symptoms, but in unique combinations. Those combinations were not just because different pathology within the injured brains, but also in unique personality traits of the survivor before the brain injury. For that reason, within TBI Voices, we always asked about who the survivor was before the injury. Our TBI Voices Project has a wealth of brain injury and survivor information on it.

For a comprehensive category by category index of the 600 parts of TBI Voices, click here.

Classifying Brain Injury Symptoms by When they Occur

It is also important to sort out symptoms in terms of when they occur. The primary symptoms that occur in the ICU, during the acute phase of the injury have already been discussed on our pages with respect to Brain Injury Care. For example, we have treated many speech deficits in our page on speech pathology.  Likewise, we have dealt with physical deficits, including spasticity on our pages on physical deficits after severe brain injury. That such topics don’t receive specific treatment in the pages that follow here, does not reflect mean that these symptoms won’t linger after discharge. They certainly may. It is our hope, however, that these profound symptoms have gotten the recognition and treatment before discharge so that you understand what you are dealing with on those issues before the brain injury survivor has returned home.

The symptoms that we will focus on next are those chronic or post acute symptoms that are most likely to impact a severe brain injury survivor in the months and years after discharge from treatment.  If the injury is particularly catastrophic, the acute stage symptoms will predominate much longer than with those who emerge from a coma within 30 days of injury.

We will start with neurobehavioral deficits, because it is those deficits which will cause the most disruption upon return home from treatment centers.  We have advocated from the beginning of our online advocacy that discharge from treatment must be delayed until the family of the survivor are safe from the worst of the neurobehavioral extremes. Yet, insurance and hospital administrators dictate those discharge decisions, regardless of whether the time is right. We thus believe it is essential that the family and the survivor be prepared for what can happen.

Next Neurobehavioral Deficits


There may be other brain injury symptoms that are not listed here.  If you have any questions about symptoms or deficits that you think may be caused by traumatic brain injury we are here to help.  You can contact Gordon Johnson by Clicking Here. has been a major undertaking since I first published the first of these pages in September of 2013. Up through October 10 it was still such a work in progress that we did not try to attract users to it who didn’t find it on their own. However, recognizing that it will always be a work in progress as I learn more, find new ways to teach the lessons of brain injury, I have felt that now is the time to encourage people to come look. Thus, while I am still writing important things about brain injury symptoms, I hope that you will benefit from what we have written so far.
Attorney Gordon Johnson

To Return to the Main Brain Injury Help Page Click Here

Click on each symptom for an explanation:




Balance and Dizziness




Impolitic Speech



Mood Issues

Neurobehavioral Extremes



Processing Speed and Multi-Attending


Staying on Topic

Time and Management


Gordon Johnson

Attorney Gordon Johnson is one of the nations leading brain injury advocates. He is Past-Chair of the TBILG, a national group of more than 150 brain injury advocates. He has spoken at numerous brain injury seminars and is the author of some of the most read brain injury web pages on the internet.

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  1. facebook-profile-picture Gordon Johnson
    Dec 10, 2013 @ 11:46:45

    Great Page.


  2. Holly Vennetti
    Jan 13, 2014 @ 22:08:58

    My brother who is 38 yrs old passed out in my mothers dining room and stopped breathing.
    The paramedics came and worked on him with CPR and shocked him back to life.
    When we arrived at the ICU they told us that he had severe brain injury, and we should let him go.
    We saw hope! He did awaken from his coma and seemed to be seeing us. He had a trach installed and a feeding tube in case he stopped breathing and he wasent coherent enough to eat. He stayed in a hospital rehab unit for 2 weeks and battled phenomena a couple times. We were told that we needed to find a skilled nursing facility to care for him. So he was moved to a skilled nursing facility where my mother was insulted by the nurses. They told us to call in hospice. As the days grew on
    We started to see him respond to music and our voices, he started blinking his eyes to say yes and no.
    He seemed to be doing much better. Then on the evening of 13 December we saw him and he was curling up. They increased his muscle relaxers and that didn’t help at all it seemed to make matters worse. Now they tell us he is constricted and asked if why we didn’t know this was suppose to happen. We don’t know what is suppose to happen. We have never dealt with this before. Now we are at wits end. My mother is bitter, mad, upset. The nursing facility has discontinued all phyisical therapy because they only offer it for a month with his insurance( he has SSI from the state) where do we turn? Can we get help for him? He is now laying in his bed head tipped down arms twisted legs pulled to his chest.
    Are there any other drugs available? It just seems so weird that he was in a medical wheelchair on December 12 dressed and on 13 December he was almost fully contracted we don’t understand what happened we really thought he was just starting to respond. By the way the nurses of corse never seen him respond they always said we Don’t see any improvement. but my mother and I did see improvement until that 13 December night. Did the nursing home miss a dose of his medicine? He is also loosing weight and they stopped putting dates on his feeding bags. Which we thought was odd.
    He became ill on 9 October it’s been 3 months we need help. Can we hire our own phyisical therapist to go into the nursing home? The nursing home told us they were getting feet splints they never came. There is only a nursing home MD who is treating him. They told my mom they were finding a neurologist but he still doesn’t have one. Should we hire our own? His birthday is Monday and I know somehow he can pull through this but with the care we have it seems bleak. Are there other resources we can turn to? We would like to make him as comfortable as possible So we can talk to him, let him watch TV stuff like that he might not fully recover but we are ok with that if its not possible but he can still enjoy his days with us.
    Thank you for all your help
    Holly Vennetti


  3. Nicole
    Jan 14, 2014 @ 08:46:40

    I’m a brain injury survivor , fell an split the rt, side of my skull open and damaged the left temporal lobe,, had to learn to walk, add, talk rt, an remember things , Some people that know of the injury continue to correct me all the time…. It’s been years now and I still don’t always get my words correctly to come out of my mouth.. People look at me like what school did u go too. You can’t even get ur words out correctly.. It use to hurt dearly.. I’ve learned to ignore there comments now , I woke up not even knowing my family, an was 3 months pregnant. my son is fine an has done fantastic in life with no damage to him from the accident…I thank the Lord I’m here now and have got back what I have… Caused severe depression .. an I sometimes fall back into a depression after all these years… And have a seizure disorder I have to live with the rest of my life. And headaches that hurt something terrible. TY for listening.. Nicole


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