Stories of Disinhibition after Brain Injury
The following are stories of real life survivors of brain injury. Clicking on the titles will take you to their actual story.
What you’re talking about is essentially relearning much of what you do as you become an adult. Do you agree?: “Correct.” Explain. : “Well, one time I remember taking my daughter shopping, when a lady comes out and asks does this dress make me look fat. You don’t say “it’s not the dress ma’am.” That’s not the first thing that’s comes out, but those are the types thought is what I said. And I was always a pretty honest person, but it was to the point where it was hurtful sometimes.” Now this inhibition, that lack of social appropriateness, is a common problem that can persist long term for people after a brain injury. How did you make progress from the extreme end of that to the point where you can function, with people without offending people?: “Well, it’s questionable that I do that to this day, but just a lot of error. I remember a lot of mistakes I made. You burn your finger on a burner a couple of times, you hurt enough people and you stop. And I hurt a couple of people close to me. So I made a real effort to watch it. And when I was in those positions where I was overwhelmed- it was not getting to that point for a good year. I had to just really limit, my exposure to things.
In an analogous sort of way it was the same issues as not being able to tell a lady that she didn’t look bad in that dress?: “Correct and when it came to people’s lives, I had no bone to telling that you’re doing a crappy job. I let them know: “I wouldn’t let you watch my children let alone some vulnerable adult.” So one of the areas in which you were different at work was the inhibition; you were more open and frank, too frank perhaps in the way you interacted. What about your own behavioral issues?: “Oh, yeah, the impulsivity was still (an issue.) I would get angry and I was never one to rile, but, the first couple of years anger would happen. And most people get angry at some things, but I don’t think that was the issue. It’s the perception change, from working for the company rather than working for the people because I truly was a company person. My boss said something, it was like, “yes, ma’am.” It got done and I had no bones over doing it.”
Before our break, you were about meeting Wayne Gordon?: “Yeah, and there is a book called Moving On and that’s what they all go back to. Tommy Manning was one of the first other advocates that I met over on the other side. Through him I met a gal named Penny Condyle, she’s my, partner, more or less, partner in crime, in a lot of what I do. She’s the peacekeeper, she has a little more common sense than I do. I still have a problem with people that say one thing and do something else and, and I cannot say it I have to I have to call a turd a turd, and that’s just what I do. And that gets me more trouble, more times than not. So politically, I let her handle the political end of it and I’ll put it off and I’ll let her deal with it because, politically it all has to work together. You don’t necessarily always have to call something what it is.”
There is a problem with brain injury, a deficit, that brain injured people don’t know when to be outgoing – when not to be outgoing and it interrelates with a term often called disinhibition. Do you see issues now in yourself where it’s hard for you to know when to turn that outgoingness on and off, or have you worked through that? : “I see what you’re saying. I’ve pretty much worked through that I would say. Now I do have some, some senses of disinhibition because one of my impairments that I have today is noise. I cannot do noise. I cannot go to, ballgames or any type of outdoor event where they have the loudspeakers. And holidays at the mall, when they loud, they say something all the crowd yack, yack, yack, and talking, I just cannot do all of this noise. Now what it does to me, and no one understands, my family cannot quite grasp, is that I don’t actually exhibit, uh, an autistic, an epileptic seizure such as a grand mal or a petite mal, but my brain, my head it feels to me like it’s going through the motions of an epileptic seizure.”
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 to disinhibit 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.: “OK.” Do you think you have problems 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?” Yes.: “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.” Such as: You don’tlook 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 about ten friends because they can’t deal with me and my quirks, I guess is a better word.
What are the biggest problems you have dealing with your daughter?: “I think it’s more of a issue with me of her being political, more politically correct out in public than she actually is. She’s blunt and to the point and calls a spade a spade and she says things that maybe not, might not be appropriate at the time. That bothers me.” There is a term in the brain injury circle called disinhibition. Have you heard that with respect to this kind of thing. Is that what you’re talking about?: “Yes, sir. Well if we’re within adults in, in a group, we are camping, whether it be out for dinner or something like that and she brings up this situation, let’s say it about the Jonas Brothers. You know, out of the blue she just starts talking about something that we have no clue what’s going on but she brings up the topic and that bothers me. I mean nobody really wants to hear about it.”
Do you have problems, in terms of the way you interact with people, being disinhibited, being inappropriate? : “Sometimes, yeah.” Talk to me about that.: “I’ll sometimes say the wrong thing. Maybe it’s, like I’ll say something inappropriate, maybe, sexual in a group setting that I shouldn’t say it.: “Are you talking about political incorrectness or actual mild sexual harassment? : “I’d say politically incorrectness more than just sexual harassment. A friend of mine and his wife, we were, and my wife, we were at a wedding, and I was just flirting with her back and forth, and the four of us were. But I took it a step too far, that it bothered my wife. So I apologized to my friend and my friend’s wife, and they didn’t think anything of it. That’s what they told me, but, you know, I felt bad because I embarrassed my wife, which that bothers me more than anything.” ow you could’ve done it before, but there’s probably something different in the way you did it than you might have before, do you know what that might be?: “I don’t know. Because I know a lot of times, a lot of times where people don’t like to say things they just, I’ll say it. If I’m in a group setting and, you know, somebody’s wearing something inappropriate, and the group is saying that looks weird. Let’s say a waiter or waitress is wearing something or whatever, and I’ll just ask a question like, why would you wear something like that in public or, you know, are you, are you wearing that because, you know, you got in trouble for being late to work or something, you know.