There are some significant differences between post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and a traumatic brain injury (TBI), but those differences are often eclipsed by the similarities. With all of the discussion regarding Iraq soldiers who are returning with cognitive problems, it’s not hard to mix them up.
Here are some ways you can differentiate between the two.
A TBI is caused by a physical trauma to the brain tissue that creates symptoms such as memory loss, anxiety and confusion, while PTSD happens after an emotional trauma and can have many of the same symptoms.
PTSD can be caused by many different things – childhood abuse, accidents, natural disasters and witnessing or experiencing violence such as happens in war. Emotions arise such as fear, anger, anxiety that can appear immediately, but often show up later. Depression, difficulty focusing and a sense of being out of control can begin to negatively affect the person’s life and lead them to find treatment.
TBI’s can also lead to depression and agitation, but they tend to create physically symptoms that PTSD doesn’t. Dizziness, blurred vision and interrupted sleep patterns are all common side effects. TBI’s can be verified through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and can be treated through both physical and psychological rehabilitation.
There aren’t any guaranteed treatments for either condition, though researchers have been working hard on finding ways to help people reduce, if not cure, their symptoms.
Two good resources for information on these injuries are the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and the National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.