What Veterans Need to Know About TBI and PTSD

Understanding the connection can be crucial to your VA disability claim

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are different conditions, but their causes are similar and many of the symptoms overlap. When a service member suffers mild TBI but symptoms persist, it’s quite possible the problem is PTSD. This is a critical fact to understand, because the usual approach to mild TBI is to ease off of exertions and stress to let the brain heal. In time and with patience, the symptoms pass. PTSD, by contrast, requires active therapy to overcome; taking a “wait and see” approach can worsen the condition. At Marcari, Russotto, Spencer & Balaban, our VA accredited attorneys want all vets to get the care they need. Although mild TBI is rarely disabling beyond a few weeks, PTSD can plague a veteran for years, even decades, if untreated. If you suspect you or a loved one may suffer from either of these conditions, it’s important to understand them. Contact our firm if you need any assistance accessing disability benefits.

Comparing and contrasting mild TBI and PTSD

Mild TBI and PTSD both disrupt normal brain function. But mild TBI has an organic cause: an external force that jolts the head, causing damage to brain tissue. PTSD does not involve organic brain damage; it results from extreme emotional trauma, such as the threat of death; witnessing actual death, dismemberment or serious injury; and sexual violence. Problems in diagnosis occur because an individual can sustain a concussion, causing mild TBI, while engaged in activity that produces extreme emotional trauma. This is often the case in combat scenarios. The important fact to understand is that an individual can have both mild TBI and PTSD.

Overlapping symptoms make diagnosis confusing

If you have TBI, you can expect various physical, cognitive and emotional difficulties:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness or vertigo
  • Nausea
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • Blurred, split or double vision
  • Impulsiveness

PTSD symptoms are mostly psychological and include:

  • Anger issues
  • Avoidance of anything that reminds the patient of the traumatic incident
  • Remaining on high alert
  • Being easily startled
  • Fearfulness
  • Flashbacks and nightmares
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Emotional numbness
  • Self-destructive behavior

Overlapping symptoms of mild TBI and PTSD include:

  • Fatigue
  • Sleep problems
  • Memory problems
  • Trouble focusing attention
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability

The overlap of symptoms is confusing, because it’s hard to know whether the physical issues of TBI are causing emotional and psychological problems, or whether the emotional trauma of PTSD is causing debilitating physical symptoms.

The good news about mild TBI and PTSD

There is hope for people who suffer from mild TBI, PTSD or both. Symptoms of mild TBI usually clear up on their own within a few weeks, as long as the patient rests and avoids physical exertion and stressful situations. Although PTSD rarely clears up on its own, various treatments such as talk therapy, medications, and meditation are helpful in eliminating or managing symptoms.

The two most important things you can do are:

  • Seek out treatment from a qualified physician with TBI/PTSD experience.
  • Surround yourself with supportive family members and friends.

You should be open with your support group, who may need help in understanding your condition. Whatever you do, don’t isolate yourself from important individuals in your life who can give you the emotional support you need. Veterans who isolate themselves run a great risk of developing a substance abuse problem and eventually committing suicide. We urge you to get the help you need and deserve, because complete recovery is possible.

Contact VA accredited attorneys who will fight for your disability benefits

The combination of TBI and PTSD is often a disabling condition. If you’ve been denied disability benefits, you don’t have to fight the VA alone. Call Marcari, Russotto, Spencer & Balaban from anywhere in the country at 866-866-VETS, and someone will be ready to talk to you, or you can contact us online. Our firm never charges upfront fees, and there are no attorney fees unless we win your claim for benefits.