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Acquired Brain Injuries: the most common symptoms of ABI

1 August, 2022

What to know - and what to notice - when it comes to Acquired Brain Injuries. This is your guide to the most common symptoms of ABI.

The brain is a powerful - and complex - organ. 

Constantly changing, this mass of synapses is always at work - sending messages around our body and helping each organ thrive. 


But what happens when a brain has an acquired injury? 

What does an acquired brain injury (ABI) mean? Does the brain still function as it should? 

How can an ABI even happen? 


At Focus Care, we have the privilege of supporting many people who’ve experienced a brain injury. In coming alongside them, we’ve learned a thing or two about ABI.

Read on for a quick run-down of all things ABI: what acquired brain injuries are, and 5 common symptoms. 

What is an acquired brain injury?

An acquired brain injury, also known as an ABI, occurs when the brain experiences some form of trauma after birth.

This can be the result of a number of things, such as: 

  • Alcohol or drug use, 

  • Disease, 

  • Lack of oxygen, 

  • Physical injury 

  • Stroke. 

More common than most would think,  1 in 45 Australians live with activity limitations or participation restrictions due to an ABI. 

Read our Guide to Acquired Brain Injuries to get a clearer idea of what an ABI is, and how they can occur. 

What are the symptoms of Acquired Brain Injury? 

Everyone is unique. 

But what one person experiences could be totally different to the next person. 

In most cases, acquired brain injury symptoms depend on how the injury happened. 

Take a look at our recent blog ‘what causes an ABI’ for further information.

However they occur, ABI symptoms are typically split among six categories, ranging from physical and emotional, to cognitive and sensory.

Physical symptoms

Our brains are responsible for a lot more than thoughts. 

Whether it’s lifting a finger, raising an eyebrow, or the simple act of breathing, every movement starts with the brain. 

In fact, every aspect of your physical body is controlled by your brain. Brains streamline our systems, balance our hormones, regulate our blood pressure, and more!

So, when a brain suffers an injury, the body’s regular rhythms may be disrupted - and physical symptoms can occur. 

These physical symptoms can look like: 

  • Tiredness, fatigue and weakness

  • Shaking, stiffness or poor balance

  • Disturbances and changes in sleep patterns

  • Development of epilepsy, seizures or fits

  • Headaches

  • Difficulties in swallowing or speaking

  • Struggles with hand-eye coordination

The senses can also become more affected:

  • Challenges with sight and depth perception 

  • Slight to total loss of taste and smell

  • Changes to hearing and potential hearing loss

  • Experiencing a constant ringing in the ear (tinnitus)

  • Touch senses becoming more or less sensitive

Emotional symptoms

It’s no surprise that a brain injury can change the way you think.

If there’s an impact to a specific brain region, or to the chemicals that help the brain work,  an injured person may find they experience or express emotion differently. This, along with the shock and change experienced with an ABI, may result in several emotional symptoms. 

Emotional symptoms can appear as:

  • Sudden changes in mood

  • Easily frustrated or angered

  • Feelings of loss, sadness, or uncertainty

  • Changes in personality

  • Low self-confidence

Whether as a result of the injury itself - or an extension of the emotional challenges an injury can bring - people with an ABI may also experience behavioural symptoms.

This can include:

  • Demonstrating aggressive or sexually inappropriate behaviour

  • Repeating things, such as work, phrases or gestures

  • Showing a general lack of interest, enthusiasm or concern

Cognitive symptoms

Think of your brain as your body’s personal computer. 

It’s the centre of all processing – a hub for thinking, remembering, focusing and reasoning. 

If the ‘computer’ experiences any damage, it stands to reason that its ability to process might be damaged too. 

When an ABI occurs, patients might see changes in their cognitive abilities. These changes might cause them to feel stressed or overwhelmed if they struggle to remember things or keep up with what’s going on around them – exacerbating the emotional symptoms mentioned above. 

The common cognitive processing symptoms are:

  • Experiencing memory problems 

  • Finding it hard to concentrate or maintain focus

  • Interpreting information more slowly

  • Difficulty with planning and organisation

  • Struggles with reading and/or writing

  • Brain fog or confusion

Some may notice a difference in their communication skills:

  • Finding it difficult to engage in conversation 

  • Struggling to understand tone, pitch and volume

  • Difficulty interpreting facial expressions and body language

How do you know if you have an ABI? 

Do any of these acquired brain injury symptoms sound familiar? 

If you believe you or a loved one may be experiencing acquired brain injury symptoms, get in touch with your doctor or healthcare practitioner.

The most common way to diagnose ABI is through conducting a brain scan. 

Depending on the suspected and potential cause, other tests may also be done to determine the way in which these symptoms manifest. 

Your healthcare professional may order memory tests or an analysis of how you or your loved one manage everyday tasks. 

If they suspect an acquired brain injury, you'll be given the appropriate care and guidance to find the support that is right for you.

What support services are available for ABI? 

Just as ABI symptoms differ between people, so does the level of care required! 

Whatever support you’re searching for, we’ll help you find your way.

At Focus Care, we pride ourselves on providing leading home care services for everyone, including people with an acquired brain injury. Our acquired brain injury support services page will tell you our current offerings - you might even like to try creative support solutions like art therapy!

Embracing clients as individuals, our goal is to provide a personalised level of care and support. Talking together, we’ll work with you to find the care solutions you want - and the flexibility and freedom you need.  

Want to find out more about the acquired brain injury support services we offer? Reach out to our friendly team or read through our list of services here.

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