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Brain Injury

A brain injury can cause changes to a person's neurotype.
The author of this page, Pauline O’Connor, was born with PKU, an inherited metabolic disorder. She had a successful career in the wine industry until a football (soccer) tackle led to a bleed in her brain. Pauline began writing during her recovery and her debut memoir was published in 2021 with Routledge. She writes about PKU, brain injuries and mental health at .
A brain injury can occur anywhere, to anyone. There are many possible causes of brain injury; from an illness such as stroke, to an injury from sports or accident. Most people would recognize that a coma is a form of severe brain injury. However, many of us may not realize that the brain may be injured even if a person has not been knocked out, or was not rendered unconscious.
Because of this variety in cause and type, a brain injury may affect a person in different ways, and to differing degrees. It is common for brain injury survivors to experience a temporary or permanent alteration to their neurotype. This alteration may be as a direct result of changes in their brain, or it may be as a result of the changes which the injury has caused in their life.
As an example, someone may develop epilepsy following an injury to the structures within their brain. Another might experience PTSD due to the circumstances of their injury. In my case, I developed dyslexia and experienced auditory hallucinations while my brain recovered from a ‘mild’ brain injury, or concussion. Concussion is a term which is commonly used, and commonly misunderstood. A concussion is actually a mild traumatic brain injury. This is a term which needs further explanation.

Definitions and Acronyms

The term “brain injury” covers a wide-range of causes and symptoms, so there are acronyms and terms which help to describe these differences. Here are some of the more common ones:
ABI: Acquired brain injury. An injury to the brain which occurs after birth. The injury may be caused by external force (e.g., a fall or an accident), or by something internal (e.g., a tumor or stroke).
TBI: Traumatic brain injury. A type of ABI which is caused by trauma to the head. For example, a TBI may be caused by a fall, a traffic collision, or a sporting injury.
PTA: Post-traumatic amnesia. A period of time after a head injury when someone may be confused. Not necessarily linked to memory loss, this may also mean that a person is not aware of their surroundings or is behaving oddly.

Severity of Brain Injury

The severity of a brain injury, whether it is a TBI or an ABI, tends to depend on both the length of time a person in unconscious and the duration of any post-traumatic amnesia.
If an injury results in someone experiencing PTA for longer than 7 days, or renders them unconscious for 48 hours, their injury would be classified as ‘Very Severe’.
When my TBI occurred, I didn’t lose consciousness and didn’t seem to have much PTA. This means that my brain injury was classified as ‘mild’. This leads to the odd definition of ‘mild’ traumatic brain injury. Most concussions fall into this ‘mild’ category of brain injury severity.
Brain Injury Resources
An (albeit flawed) introduction to neurodiversity in a professional context. PDF download.
A guided shadow work journal with over 100 writing prompts specifically tailored for Neurodivergents, by a Neurodivergent author. Shadow work is the process of getting to know the hidden parts of yourself—thoughts, emotions, behaviours and parts of your personality that you’ve repressed because you were taught that they were undesirable or because of trauma. By bringing these hidden aspects to light, you get to understand yourself better and work towards self-acceptance.
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Brain Injury Social Media Accounts
Hannah got sick with Covid in March of 2020 and never recovered. Helping to pioneer the patient-led “Long Covid” movement, she’s now been diagnosed with ME/CFS and a TBI.
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