Has a Concussion Put an End to Your Social Life?

— BY Condition Information | Reading Time: 2 min

Stressed man in his living room holding his head

Mingling at the water cooler with coworkers or grabbing a coffee with friends shouldn’t seem like difficult tasks. But to someone who recently suffered a concussion, even the most simple social interactions can become incredibly overwhelming. Suddenly, even standing in the same room as other people can make you feel unsafe… and that’s because your nervous system doesn’t feel safe.

When your brain sustains a traumatic head injury like a concussion, it can suffer several unexpected side effects, the primary being stress on your nervous system. As you begin your path to recovery, you might notice that typical social interactions don’t feel too normal anymore. Fortunately, you can put an end to the post-concussion symptoms that have seemingly put an end to your social life.

Has Socializing Become Stressful?

Many people are surprised to learn that social and emotional connectivity issues are very common after a traumatic brain injury (TBI) like a concussion. As a matter of fact, there are tons of ‘weird’ symptoms you may experience after a concussion — from anxiety and depression to memory loss and unexpected mood swings. One of these symptoms includes stress around socializing.

Social stress normally manifests as strained relationships with those closest to you or those you encounter on a daily basis, like your coworkers. You might find that it feels harder to go to work than it was pre-concussion, or you might feel more emotional than usual. On the other hand, you might feel more irritable or more easily prone to becoming overwhelmed in social settings.

A group of friends taking a selfie at a restaurant

Concussions Put the ‘Nervous’ in Nervous System

The human brain might be the source of our intelligence, but it can act downright stupid at times! Any time we suffer a blow to the head, we risk damaging the white matter tracts of the brain that relay and coordinate communication between different networks. Because the brain does not have the ability to identify its baseline (healthy state) naturally, it adapts to the damage the best it can.

However, it doesn’t always adapt in ways that allow you to function properly — and sometimes, it places a lot of stress on your body.

Researchers have found a direct link between head trauma and stress on the sympathetic nervous system, the part of your body responsible for a fight or flight response. Traumatic brain injuries like concussions can inflict an overwhelming variety of stressors on the sympathetic nervous system, which can derail network engagement in the brain and impact the ability to socialize.

When there’s no longer resilience, or what we call a ‘window of tolerance’ for added stress on the system, a fight or flight response becomes nearly unavoidable. Even a simple social interaction can serve as a low-grade, mild stressor, leading to difficulty interacting in social settings. Because your nervous system feels overwhelmed, it’s common for your body to feel unsafe in response.

Is Your Nervous System Overwhelmed?

So, could your nervous system be to blame for difficulty socializing after a concussion? It just might be! Concussions trigger several downstream effects, including but not limited to increased inflammation and skewed hormone production, both of which can force the brain to remain in a constant state of fight-or-flight known as freeze. Mood swings are very common in this state.

Once paired with potential white matter shearing, or damage to the communication pathways of the brain itself, it can become increasingly difficult to engage the networks necessary for normal social interaction. This may be a sign that your nervous system is overwhelmed, and while it may feel like a lot of work engaging in social moments, this is a post-concussion symptom we can definitely treat.

Yes, There’s a Way Back to Baseline

Here at Neurvana Naturopathic Medicine, we strive to help your body and your brain naturally return to baseline, or the healthy state you were in before your injury took place. It’s critical that anyone with a traumatic brain injury understands that there is a path back to baseline. However, returning to baseline after a concussion is a process that’s totally unique to each individual.

With the expansive spectrum of unexpected side effects that can occur within the concussive category, it’s important for me to treat each brain injury as a completely separate case. The emotional side effects or white matter shearing that occurs in one patient with, say, a car accident TBI can be different than what develops in another patient with a sports accident concussion.

Regain Your Social Life (For Good)

The first step to treat social and emotional connectivity issues after a concussion is to determine what is causing the sympathetic nervous system to hit that stress overload. To get a better idea of what’s impacting your brain, we conduct a quantified electroencephalography (qEEG) brain map. A qEEG brain map tracks electrical activity and communication between different brain networks.

The results of a qEEG can reveal how brain function has been disturbed by a traumatic brain injury, whether that be damage to white matter tracts or similar malfunctions that impact social and emotional skills. Once we can pinpoint the damage on a brain map, we can administer cranial reconditioning techniques that work to repair the impacts of repeated nervous system stress.

Cranial reconditioning techniques available at Neurvana Naturopathic Medicine for post-concussive symptoms include but are not limited to:

  • qEEG-guided neurofeedback to help rewire the parts of the brain that have been disrupted due to traumatic injury and chronic stress.
  • Biofeedback therapy to leverage communication pathways in the brain to control bodily functions like heart rate and blood pressure.

Get back to baseline.

Has the thought of social interaction become stressful after a traumatic head injury like a concussion? Seek guidance from the top-rated post-concussion rehabilitation clinic in Calgary.