Disinhibition – The Definition and Examples

Disinhibition Definition

The definition of disinhibition is the loss of inhibition.  Inhibition is known as a nervous feeling that prevents you from expressing your thoughts.  For instance, if you didn’t care for the dress your friend was wearing, you would keep those thoughts to yourself.  A person with disinhibition caused by brain injury would not have that filter.

Examples of Disinhibition

To give you an example of disinhibition we turn to our TBI Voices Project where we interviewed over thirty real life survivors of brain injury.  The example we will give you is from the story of Michael. Michael suffered his traumatic brain injury in a car accident where he got hit head on by a drunk driver.  In our interviews this is the case way too often.

Michael has several frontal lobe deficits that he has had to deal with since he became brain injured.  One of those is disinhibition.  When we talked about this issue I asked him if he understood what that meant.  He said he didn’t but when I explained it like; ” We learn to inhibit our speech when our mother washes our mouth out with soap whenever you use a swear word. So to disinhibit means that we stop inhibiting the impulse to use inappropriate language, or the impulse to get mad or the impulse to tell a member of the opposite sex how sexy they are or how unattractive they are.’ he knew exactly what I was talking about.  His response was; ” Okay, you’re talking about the little voice that is the back of your head that helps prevent you from saying something?” and then went on to say he didn’t have one. He stated that even when he was trying to pay someone a compliment it would come out as an insult.  An example might be “you don’t look quite as fat today as you did yesterday.” His friend told him he was giving her a “back hand slap compliment”.

To read Michael’s entire story click here

These are very typical examples of disinhibition.  We are taught growing up what is appropriate to say and what isn’t.  children are very honest and may say things that seem cruel but they are really in turn just reporting things as they see them.  Parents teach them as they are growing that they should not say things as to offend someone.  Brain injury may take away that lesson and has to be taught all over again.

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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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