There has been much research in recent years about the devastating and lifelong impact of brain injuries. New research continues to bring to light the dangers of concussions and we hear about personality changes and symptoms similar to mental illness that can result when a person’s brain is damaged by trauma.
Brain injuries change lives – and not just for the injured. In particular, life also changes dramatically for the spouses of those living with the permanent effects of brain injury.
Until recently, there wasn’t much research into the best way to preserve the marriage relationship after a brain injury. Often, couples go into survival mode for the first while and once the true effects of the injury become clear they are left to struggle through on their own.
Even for those who can still function with daily activities and live relatively independently, brain trauma often brings personality changes. A once lively, cheerful person could become cold and morose. An even-tempered spouse could begin to have frequent angry outbursts or near-manic behaviour.
Suddenly, your spouse is no longer the person you know better than anyone else and the spark that drew you together may indeed be gone. In these cases, doctors often warn spouses that the meaningful part of their marriage may be over as personality changes can do irreparable harm to relationships.
Although the relationship has undoubtedly changed and may not be happy, the statistics show that many marriages do survive after a spouse experiences a brain trauma. A 2007 study found the divorce rate in this group to be lower than the national average at just 17 percent.
Today, therapists are beginning to understand the obstacles faced by couples dealing with brain injury and are working on new counselling tools to help re-build relationships.
While traditional counselling techniques encourage couples to restore past happiness in their relationship or to look back to find what brought them together in the first place, this may not be possible for those dealing with a new reality after a brain injury.
Newer techniques center on teaching couples to go forward and create new connections with one another while accepting that the injured spouses have changed.
Some conventional tips such as communication, focusing on positives and being intentional about injecting fun and romance into the relationship can still be useful.
Looking forward together may be the best way to re-build a relationship changed forever by a brain injury.
Do you find it annoying to hear the sounds of someone else chewing or slurping? This is a pet peeve for many people – but for some, small sounds like these pose a big problem.
Individuals experiencing a condition called misophonia or selective sound sensitivity syndrome can become anxious or enraged by small sounds such as other people eating, breathing, coughing, typing, a dripping faucet or other every day noises. Until fairly recently, these people have often been told they are simply over-reacting, but this view is changing now.
Misophonia (which means hatred of sound) is a newly recognized condition with little research surrounding it as yet. It is considered a cousin to tinnitus and is characterized by an involuntary decreased tolerance to specific sounds.
Not much is understood about misophonia yet, but it is thought to result from a physiological abnormality in the structures of the brain involved with processing sounds.
There is no good data on its prevalence, but the condition does seem to have genetic roots and begins typically in late childhood or early adolescence and gets worse over time. Often, it starts with sensitivity to just one kind of sound and gradually expands to include more noises.
Until now, many people experiencing this sensitivity have been mistakenly diagnosed with other problems when presenting their specific symptoms – they have been told they have a phobia or obsessive compulsive disorder, mania or an anxiety disorder.
Sometimes, misophonia is confused with another condition called hyperacusis – where sound is perceived as abnormally loud or physically painful. However, the two conditions are not the same. Indeed, the sounds that trigger rage or anxiety in misophonia are quiet, hardly audible noises rather than loud noises.
No effective treatment exists for misophonia. Most people go out of their way to avoid the sounds they can’t tolerate. Obviously, this can cause issues in relationships and social settings. When it is impossible to avoid the sounds, some people try to mask them by timing their own chewing to match the other, wearing earplugs or using white noise machines.
Some people feel better if they vocalize their discomfort by telling the person who is eating near them that the noise bothers them. Others find mimicking the offending noise can provide some relief to the feelings of anxiety and anger that arise.
More research into misophonia will help us to better understand the exact physiological cause of the condition and may also lead to more effective ways to deal with the symptoms.
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