Posted on July 9, 2012 · Posted in TBI Voices
This entry is part 32 of 36 in the series Michael

 Brain Injury Disinhibition: Michael Part Thirty-Two

In Part thirty-one Michael talks about his brain injury disinhibition and the difficulties he has to control it in everyday life.

There are a number of frontal lobe issues that you have touched on in examples and I wanted to cover some of those in a little bit more of a checklist kind of a format because I tried to cover most of these in each interview.


Brain Injury Disinhibition, do you know what that means?


It starts with the word inhibit.  We learn to inhibit our speech when our mother washes our mouth out with soap whenever you use a swear word.   So brain injury disinhibition means that we stop inhibiting the impulse to swear, or the impulse to get angry or the impulse to tell a member of the opposite sex how sexy they are or how unattractive they are. 


Do you think you have problems with brain injury disinhibition, screening what you say before you blurt it out?

Okay, you’re talking about the little voice that is the back of your head that helps prevent you from saying something?


I don’t have one.

A friend of mine, she would call them  “backhand slap compliments”.  You know, I was complimenting somebody but it didn’t look like it.  I was insulting them.

An example of brain injury disinhibition: You don’t look nearly as fat today as you did yesterday.

 Yes.  Exactly.  And so she said, finally she was like Mike, you are giving me a back slap compliment.  And I was like yes.

And so, what problems has that absence of the little voice in the back of your head caused?

I have lost a lot of friends. After my car accident I had maybe one really good friend from Louisville who stuck around with me and two or three other ones besides my family.  I have lost, overall I have lost about ten friends because they can’t deal with me and my quirks, I guess is a better word.

One of the most significant quirks of brain injury disinhibition is this inability to have a filter on what you think versus what you say? 

Yes.  It has gotten better but I still have problems.

What is the last problem that comes to mind that you have in terms of brain injury disinhibition?

I think this was at church and my wife was like:  “I just went to the bathroom and I thought I thought I had a gray hair.”  Of course, I perked up and had to blurt it out and say hey look everybody, “my wife’s gray hair.”  You know, it’s funny and it was.  I may do it for humor or laughs, but I can’t say okay, well dye it, get rid of it.

I have been able to tell since the first time that I met you and in the two interviews that you have a sense of humor.


Was that a big part of your personality before you got hurt?

It is the only way to get through life.

Do you have problems today being able to figure out what is funny and what is offensive?

For me, everything is funny.  But if you are not around me for a long time, most of the stuff that is coming out of my mouth is (sounds) offensive.  My friend who has a seizure disorder, she gets it, you know.  Well I will say something to other people and it is insulting.  Like, the last one was, something about, I think about her pulling her pants up or doing something with her pants or underwear.  I have no problem walking up the street and telling that to people that I don’t even know.  And she was like well did you get a good view?

Do you find your humor similar to what your kids might say?

Yes.  My youngest has already gotten in trouble.  He is 6 and he was at kindergarten at school and I don’t know if it was from the work he picked it up from the other kids in the house.   The teacher noticed he was telling a little female class member, oooh, she is hot.  And this is coming from a 6 year old.


Next in Part Thirty Three – Time Management Challenges after Severe Brain Injury

By Attorney Gordon Johnson



About the Author

Attorney Gordon S. Johnson, Jr.
Past Chair Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group, American Association of Justice :: 800-992-9447