Traumatic Brain Injuries Can Cause Behavioral Problems and Personality Disorders

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is a significant public health concern worldwide, with millions of people suffering from it each year. Brain injuries can result from various incidents, including falls, car accidents, sports-related injuries, or combat-related trauma. While the immediate physical consequences of TBI are well-documented, its impact on an individual’s psychological well-being, particularly in relation to personality disorders, is a complex and often understudied area.

One major study – the gold standard for studies of people before and after traumatic brain injuries determined that individuals were three times as likely to suffer a mental or personality disorder (PD) following their TBI. Researchers observed that the most common post-TBI PDs were borderline, avoidant, paranoid, obsessive-compulsive, and narcissistic. Men were more likely to be diagnosed with antisocial PD and narcissistic PD. Individuals with pre-TBI PDs were at greater risk of acquiring additional psychopathology post-TBI. Personality traits endorsed by more than 30 percent of the sample post-TBI reflected loss of self-confidence, attempts to cope with cognitive and interpersonal failures, and negative affect.


Personality disorders encompass a range of mental health conditions characterized by enduring patterns of behavior, cognition, and inner experience that deviate significantly from cultural expectations. These disorders are typically diagnosed in adulthood, but their roots can be traced back to early life experiences and genetic predispositions. The link between brain injuries and personality disorders is multifaceted and raises several critical considerations.

  • Personality change after TBI – TBI can lead to significant personality changes in some individuals. These changes may manifest as increased impulsivity, emotional instability, and decreased empathy, resembling symptoms seen in disorders like borderline personality disorder (BPD) or antisocial personality disorder (ASPD).
  • Neurobiological mechanisms – TBI can cause structural and functional alterations in the brain, affecting areas responsible for personality and behavior regulation. These alterations may contribute to the emergence of personality disorder traits.
  • Overlap in symptoms – Some symptoms of TBI, such as mood swings, irritability, and impaired impulse control, can mimic those seen in personality disorders, making differential diagnosis challenging.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – TBI survivors are at increased risk of developing PTSD, which can co-occur with personality disorders. PTSD symptoms can exacerbate existing personality disorder traits or even lead to their development.
  • Treatment challenges – As noted by our Virginia Beach brain injury lawyers, personality disorders in TBI patients is complex. Traditional therapies for personality disorders may need to be adapted to accommodate cognitive impairments resulting from brain injuries.
  • Social implications – Personality changes following TBI can strain relationships, making it crucial for both patients and their loved ones to understand the interplay between TBI and personality disorders to seek appropriate support and therapy.
  • Research gaps – While there is a growing interest in studying the relationship between TBI and personality disorders, there are still significant gaps in our understanding. More research is needed to determine the exact mechanisms linking the two and to develop effective interventions.

Pursuing Damages for Brain Injuries

You do not need to be a licensed psychiatrist who can cite the DSM-5 to understand that short- and long-term difficulties for TBI victims go far beyond headaches and dizziness. As personal injury lawyers who work with families in Virginia and North Carolina, we know that a serious change in behavior and personality takes a terrible toll on loved ones.

We regularly hear about the sudden onset of relationship-destroying issues like:

  • Insomnia
  • Agitation
  • Alternating episodes of mania and depression
  • Substance abuse and addiction
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Rages
  • Lack of judgment
  • Poor impulse control
  • Loss of respect for the law and authorities
  • Aggressiveness
  • Violence

Problems may escalate over time, and cures can be impossible to find when the cause is irreparable damage to the frontal lobe of the brain. A traumatic brain injury sometimes literally takes away the person who existed before an accident.

And make no mistake: A concussion can be a life-altering TBI, especially when a person has suffered more than one serious brain injury. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention technically classifies a concussion as a mild TBI, but the symptoms can be devastating.

When we take a case for a client who is suffering from a brain injury, our Virginia Beach personal injury attorneys push for a settlement or jury award that includes funds for lifelong physical, mental, and behavioral care. Since a TBI negatively affects every aspect of a person’s life—sometimes for the rest of their life—compensation paid by the negligent or reckless party that inflicted the brain injury should cover all the damages. If a brain injury eventually results in the death of the accident victim, don’t hesitate to reach out to a wrongful death lawyer in Virginia Beach.