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The invisible impacts of concussions and other brain injuries

Just because you don’t see it, it doesn’t mean it’s not there
NS Brain Injury Spotlight image_June 2021

Current estimates reveal that an acquired brain injury (ABI) affects more than seven per cent of Nova Scotians. In fact, it is likely that every Nova Scotian has a friend or loved one living with the “invisible” impacts of an ABI. Because it is not always obvious, ABI is often challenging for survivors to express how or what they are feeling. Those suffering from concussions may also experience invisible impacts and symptoms.

Brain Injury Association of Nova Scotia aims to remove the stigma of brain injuries and concussions and educate people on the invisible impacts they may have. It fosters resilience, recovery and community for brain injury survivors and their families across Nova Scotia.

Why are they called invisible impacts?

What people may not understand is that a brain injury has significant prolonged impacts on survivors. These impacts and symptoms are often “invisible” to others making it difficult to understand that an ABI exists. Brain injury survivors can experience a myriad of symptoms including but not limited to mood swings and the inability to focus. The effects of an ABI can begin to show immediately or increase/decrease over time.

What are the invisible impacts of an ABI?

Brain injury survivors can experience a combination of physical, cognitive, behavioural and emotional changes. To view examples of the impact of an ABI, visit Brain Injury Association of Nova Scotia’s website.

Often, survivors will experience symptoms that cannot be seen but are significant. For example:

  • Over 40 per cent of ABI survivors will experience depression in the first 12 months of their injury;
  • More than 10 per cent will meet the criteria for substance abuse disorder within 12 months of their injury; and
  • Survivors are more than one and a half times as likely to develop a gambling addiction.

How do invisible impacts of brain injuries affect survivors?

One of the greatest struggles faced by brain injury survivors is explaining their limitations to employers and teachers, for example. Often, they are viewed as dramatic or unbelievable and pushed perform like every other student with no short- or long-term accommodations. As a result, they are led to feel incapable and sometimes incompetent, which can lead to issues in the workplace or school. For employees with brain injuries, the lack of understanding and support from employers and colleagues can lead to termination or making the decision to quit. These feelings of invalidation can cause serious mental health issues for survivors. 

The journey to healing

Chloe Luckett was hit by a car while cycling in September 2016 and, as a result, suffered a traumatic brain injury. She says, "After the injury I just found that my anxiety skyrocketed. I had really depressive tendencies and I just wasn't in a good head space anymore. I just was kind of mourning who I felt like I'd lost: who I was before."

Today, Chloe is grateful for the tremendous amount of support she has received from family and friends.  As part of her healing, she now teaches a program in Halifax that focuses on helping others with brain injuries to restore some calm to their lives through meditation and yoga.

To build a better understanding of the invisible impacts of brain injuries, Brain Injury Association of Nova Scotia has created an overview of the feelings survivors have. 

Want to learn more? Visit Brain Injury Association of Nova Scotia's website or email

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