For Veterans, returning home may be a complicated journey filled with emotional, physical, and mental highs and lows, particularly if they are trying to recover from an injury. Although coming home after multiple tours of duty is a dream come true for family and friends, many Veterans struggle to find normalcy upon their return.
Many of our Veterans do not sustain physical injuries while overseas, but since the wars began in Iraq and Afghanistan, hundreds of thousands of Veterans return home with various injuries from limb loss to traumatic brain injuries (TBI).
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains a traumatic brain injury as a “bump, blow, or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that interferes with normal brain function.” TBIs are a major cause of death and disability in the U.S. and the injury can range from very mild to severe and life-altering.
An estimated 60 to 80 percent of Veterans who have sustained an injury from a blast also have a TBI. Although traumatic brain injuries are common among injured Veterans, it may be difficult to accurately determine how many suffer from TBIs. TBIs are often seen as an “invisible disability.” Some of the signs and symptoms, of traumatic brain injuries, are mistaken for common mental and emotional health issues that Veterans struggle with when returning home.
Common Signs and Symptoms of TBIs
Sadly, not every vet with a TBI is aware that he or she has one, as the signs and symptoms may vary for each person. Per the Mayo Health Clinic, there are cognitive issues such as mental confusion or difficulty understanding. There are also behavioral issues like aggression and irritability; many of the symptoms depend on where the TBI occurred in the brain.
Individuals with TBIs may also suffer from anger, anxiety, depression, sensitivity to light and sound, or loneliness. These symptoms may be common for a vet with or without a TBI, returning home, trying to get “back to normal” after witnessing atrocities.
The Reality of Living with a TBI
Since TBIs can result in some major cognitive and behavioral changes, a vet with a traumatic brain injury may have a difficult time adjusting to life after returning from overseas. From alcohol and drug abuse and violent outbursts to chronic pain and feelings of hopelessness, TBIs can contribute to situations that may put a vet behind bars, end a relationship, struggle with homelessness, or make it difficult to find or keep a job.
Since some traumatic brain injuries go untreated or misdiagnosed, some Veterans experience a lifetime of struggles.
Resources for Veterans with TBIs
If a vet knows that he or she has a traumatic brain injury or suspects that he or she may have suffered one during a tour of duty, he or she should seek medical treatment as soon as possible. Once diagnosed and depending on the severity of the injury, he or she may require surgery, various therapies, or medication.
Since TBIs can affect the mental and emotional health of an individual, TBI survivors are strongly encouraged to enroll into a rehabilitation program. By seeking support from professionals and fellow TBI victims, a vet may be able to transition to home life more easily and avoid negative life-changing events like unemployment, homelessness, or loss of relationships.
Rosemary Pagliaro has been an offshore survey engineer, a computer engineer, a teacher, and more recently a freelance writer and stay-at-home mother of a toddler who never rests. While tackling daily motherhood, she enjoys hiking the desert mountains, watching an exciting movie, or catching up on a good book. Being a former military brat and military spouse she has had the fortune to travel and obtain a lot of information regarding various subjects.