It took some time (read: four and a half years) to finally realize that in certain cases my reactions were off. I’ve mentioned before that I get more easily irritated when I’m tired. Therefore, every time that I reacted far too strongly out of anger or irritation, I blamed my energy level. However, I also had these overblown responses in the morning after a good night sleep, so something else seemed at play as well.
Whether our brain is injured or not, we all can get irritated over seemingly small and insignificant things. The supermarket running of of your favourite brand, someone cutting you off in traffic or a persistent salesperson. Luckily we learn early on how to deal with these feelings. To try and stay calm and not react out of our initial emotions.
Angry & irritated
The thing is that I not only get more easily irritated, I also have a hard time controlling my reactions.
This week had multiple of these instances. On my day off, someone asked me an unsuspecting questions via the app. I immediate got irritated. Hadn’t I explained that in the week prior? Why were they bothering me again?
My thoughts went around in circles and it took some time to lose some of my anger and frustration. Luckily I had the presence of mind (this time) to wait before I responded. Which made me reflect on why I was having such a heated reaction. Why was my reaction so overblown? I would ask stupid questions all the time, so why couldn’t I handle these questions of others?
Suddenly I had a brainwave. My irritation and anger weren’t just about my energy level. My brain injury had somehow damaged my control mechanism for these emotions. An online search taught me that this is quite a common problem for people with a brain injury. As a result of the injury our brain can have more difficulty inhibiting angry emotions or actions, making us more easily angry.
I recognized a lot of the signs and warning signals. And remembered other occurrences where I had to apologize afterwards, as I couldn’t control my feelings of irritation.
I now realize that my threshold has been lowered, resulting in me getting irritated or angry far more easily. It takes a lot longer for me to move on and in the meantime I’m quite vocal with my irritation. Which in turn can result in me inadvertently hurting or disturbing the people around me.
One of my major triggers, is getting asked obvious questions. Obvious, since I’ve already explained or told that particular information. The moment I get such a question, my rational thinking retreats to the background and my irritation takes over. Which is of course slightly ironic, as I ask obvious questions all the time, probably even more so, since my injury. This apparently doesn’t change my reaction in the moment itself.
Realizing this all however, didn’t change a thing. It would have been nice if I recognized feelings of anger and irritation and then distract myself or retreat in order, for thing to cool down.
But no. Two days later, I had gotten stuck in my irritation and needed help. I had to switch phones, but I couldn’t manage to turn of the vibrating with keystrokes option.
Who cares, right? Well, I couldn’t let it go. Instead of regaining my calm, I simultaneously had to try and activate my new sim card.
The instructions though turned out to be far too complicated. As I already was quite irritated, my ability to think logical thoughts had been reduced as well. Since I couldn’t get it to work I got more angry and more irritated. Finally out of anger I just had to cry and ask for help.
Naturally, it turned out to be really simple. In that moment however, the instructions were too complicated. I needed clear step-by-step, fool proof instructions. It gave me a tiny bit of insight in how difficult our world must be for people struggling with language or reading.
Afterwards I could laugh about the whole incident, but it did made me realize that I have to be more aware of myself. Naturally, I hope that my control mechanisms will slowly get better.
Until then, I’ll try and explain to the people around me that whenever I get angry or irritated, I lose my rational thinking and inhibitions. My brain injury will cause me to say or do thing, for which I have to apologize afterwards.
I will also try to practise with letting go, backing off and regaining my calm. Every irritation is another chance.
Do you also have difficulty with controlling your anger or irritation? Did you make the connection to your injury quicker? Do you have any tips?
10 Replies to “More easily irritated and angry after brain injury”
I am finding this too! I am so tired of talking about my brain injury to my family because I feel like they don’t believe me. (I “look” fine, I am intelligent, etc)
Recently my brother referred to my “brain injury” (yes, he used quotation marks)
I lost it.
I started using CBD oil, which I find calms my brain. I guess it’s something I should continue to take regularly because my family (parents and siblings) seem to refuse to understand.
I got encephalitis and sepsis in 2010. Not only did I survive but I have recovered quite well, however I know there are things in my brain that are “off” and I have to pay more attention to taking care of myself in that regard.
Thank you for writing this article. It helps me a lot to know there are people who experience similar challenges.
My kids are awesome. They do get it.
Hi Linda, I’m sorry to read that your family doesn’t want to understand what a brain injury means. That must be incredible frustrating! I think I would get really angry if a close family member or friend would use quotation marks while mentioning my injury.
I’m glad that your kids do get it, that is truly awesome!
Thanks for sharing about the CBD oil, does it help when you feel overstimulated?
I’m very glad that my article helped! (I still get relieved when I discover that it isn’t just me, so thanks for letting me know! 🙂 )
Take care and I really hope that your family will gain some understanding of the struggles you now have to face.
Millions face these recovery symptoms. Not meant to dismiss, but rather share the burden that it is not only us going through this.
Very true and something that I tend to forget in my day to day life. So thanks for that reminder!!
/Do you also have difficulty with controlling your anger or irritation?/ Yes I did. The worst of times are probably over now. And for me they were the worst hahaha. For my caregivers and family and friends and co-workers… I am so sorry for them. I also had the inverse: I saw everyone as being angry at me. Even if they weren’t. That was a big problem. Big. Guess what? If you ask somebody “Are you mad?” 3 or 4 hundred times, eventually they are going to get mad hahaha. When I over-do it this still happens.
/Did you make the connection to your injury quicker?/ Emphatically: No. Not at all. Not one millimeter of connection. As recovery progressed it slowly improved. Just noticing it was a huge step forward. So, you rock.
/Do you have any tips?/ Give yourself a break. Yea, same old same old advice from me, right? But there is no user manual. Nobody tells us this. It is pretty surprising that we all discover this ourselves. Then again, maybe it is the only way that we can learn it?
Tips? You know already I bet. Breathe. Walk away. Just drop everything and walk away. Say “I’m sorry excuse me I’ll be right back”. Have a “Meltdown plan” because it is not a panic attack but it is sort of like getting mad fast and sometimes you gotta short-circuit it. Make the plan when you feel good, not when you are having a meltdown. There are always tell-tale signs that it is happening. The noise gets louder. Traffic looks faster. Can’t think straight. So if you have a good plan, then maybe you can catch those red-flags, and cut it off at the pass. That is a practice and it is called a practice because it takes practice. Keep at it we are all in this together.
Thanks, I like the idea of a “Meltdown plan”! I’ll work on that (love making plans :)) And the “give yourself a break” advice is just really, really true and unfortunately also very difficult to implement, at least for me. With repetition comes habit (hopefully).
Having the inverse can’t be easy, must feel exhausting and I get that that’ll you to over-do the questioning. Still I find it admirable that you actually check if your feelings are correct. I hope the over-doing doesn’t happen too often and that they understand that it’s just your injured brain speaking.
/(hope) that they understand that it’s just your injured brain speaking/
That deserves an entire pamphlet for caregivers! It is really difficult for caregivers and family to see this. It looks like you are being really difficult and obnoxious when it is only the TBI talking. The problem is that at times were were all difficult and obnoxious pre-TBI :). So, we all solder on.
We difficult and obnoxious before our injury? I can’t imagine 😛
Yes, I think it becomes much more difficult when you see someone every day especially when you are their caregiver or close family member. Which is also why I think that a lot more awareness (and professional help) on this particular topic is needed.
Good post! The default reaction and emotional response for many people with a brain injury is anger. The fact that you recognize this in yourself and are taking steps to manage this symptom is fantastic. My loved one with a brain injury is not able to recognize or control her irritability and anger responses. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you for your kind words. And I wish you strength, patience and compassion for any unjust response you have to deal with, as that can’t be easy.