CEMM Virtual Library

The Caregiver's Journey

Frustration, Anger/Aggressiveness

After a TBI, many people become frustrated more easily than before. Your family member may not be able to do things as easily as he or she once did. Sometimes, he or she may not know what others expect. This can be frustrating.

You may notice a quicker temper or a tendency to fly off the handle more easily.

Loss of independence, fatigue, overstimulation, or cognitive problems can also lead to feelings of frustration and anger.

What you might see:

  • Strong reaction to minor annoyances or sources of frustration 
  • General lack of patience (e.g., when others don’t understand the changes resulting from the injury)
  • Low tolerance for change
  • Unexpected outbursts of anger
  • Increased irritability
  • Verbal or physical demonstrations of anger
  • Increased tendency toward anger when tired, in new situations, and during high levels of stress

How you can help:

  • Develop a plan to manage frustration or anger. This might mean taking a walk or going to another room and turning on the television. This can be a good signal to others in the family that your family member needs to be alone for a while.
  • Remain calm. Encourage your family member to recognize when he or she is becoming angry or frustrated. Help him or her learn to ask for a break or some space to calm down.
  • Reinforce all efforts to use effective anger management strategies. 
  • Prepare your service member/veteran for challenging situations when possible.
  • Simplify tasks and provide a consistent, structured environment.
  • Try to avoid surprises. People with TBI do better when they are prepared and can anticipate a change in plans.
  • Try to consistently react to certain behaviors in a certain way. Often, a consistent approach helps to manage difficult behaviors.
  • Rehearse and role play specific situations to boost confidence in managing life outside the home.
  • Approach challenges calmly and allow yourself to take a break when necessary.
  • If your family member is often angry, ask the healthcare team to develop a plan to manage this behavior. The rehabilitation psychologist or neuropsychologist is the team member who will work on this plan.

Tell the healthcare team if anger increases or your family member is violent. You do not have to tolerate verbal or physical attacks.

Your family member is no more comfortable with this behavior than you are. Get help. There are effective medications and behavior management approaches to help manage angry outbursts.

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