Socialization is incredibly important for a person’s overall health and well-being. After a concussion, a person may not be able to socialize like they did before. This could be a temporary situation or be more permanent if they experience long-lasting effects.
A lack of socialization leads to feelings like loneliness and low self-esteem. Negative effects on mental health from lack of socialization can lead to problems such as depression.
Trying to be social after a concussion can be challenging, but it is not impossible. There are ways to interact with others that can create a rich and fulfilling social life while still being mindful of changing abilities and needs.
Topics in this section include:
- Environmental factors
Socialization can often happen in environments that can be overwhelming or irritating for someone with a concussion. Depending on the effects of your injury, some social settings can be:
- Require interaction with staff/strangers on a frequent basis
- Require too much physical exertion
- Too bright
- Too crowded
- Too loud
Have a friend or family member with you to help with navigating environments or explain what you need when you engage with people socially.
If you’re experiencing environmental barriers, you’re less likely to engage in social interactions. Some ways to cope with social activities and environments include:
- Asking in advance if the space has accommodations for accessibility. Businesses are becoming more aware of the need for standards of accessibility for all, not just physical disabilities
- Limit the number of people you interact with at first
- Look for sensory-friendly spaces
- Starting with shorter social engagements
- Suggesting environments in which you feel comfortable
- Taking breaks
Fatigue can be both physical and cognitive. If you experience fatigue often, you may be tempted to reject social invitations. While not every social situation will be the right fit for you, fatigue does not have to prevent you from socializing. By understanding fatigue, how it affects you, and using management strategies to reduce its impact, you’ll be able to engage in social events.
- Feeling like a burden
After a concussion, many individuals struggle with feeling like a burden to their loved ones. People may feel that they are not worth making accommodations for or that their friends/family may have more fun without them. This can lead to feelings of depression and a person may not invite others to be social or accept social invitations.
It’s important to discuss these feelings with your family, friends, a psychologist or a therapist. Sharing how you’re feeling can not only help you but can help the people closest to you who may not realize the best ways to include you.
A common effect of concussion is headaches. These can be painful and keep you from a variety of activities, including socializing. Your physician will have prescribed treatment for your headaches, but if you aren’t seeing any changes, you should speak with them again.
If you can identify what triggers a headache for you, you can build a social life around that knowledge. For example, if you know you get headaches after being out for too long, start with shorter outings. Or if you get headaches before bed, aim to meet with friends early in the day when you feel your best.
- Unable to start or follow conversation
If a person is talking too fast, the environment is too loud, or there are multiple people speaking, it can be difficult for someone with a concussion to follow a conversation. If you’re struggling with conversation, there are some ways to cope:
- Ask for people to speak slowly, clearly and one at a time
- Ask to have social engagements in quiet, uncrowded environments
- Create cue cards with conversation topics
- Rehearse conversations with a friend or family member
Humans are social by nature, and a lack of socialization can lead to loneliness, low self-esteem, reduced emotional functionality, mental health struggles and depression. Studies have shown that social isolation can even lead to more health problems. Some people with concussions may have fewer social experiences, leading to increased social isolation. This can be caused by:
- A lack of accessibility
- Anxiety and depression
- Physical barriers
- Social difficulties
- Symptoms preventing you from engaging with others (such as headaches)
All of these can make it even more difficult to reach out to others - or have others reach out to you. It’s a vicious cycle that can be difficult to break. But there are ways you can combat social isolation.
- Keep in touch with your local brain injury association - they run webinars, peer mentoring, events, and other activities that promote socialization
- Leave your house when you can - even fresh air and seeing people in your neighbourhood can help
- Set up regular calls with family, friends, and loved ones
- Talk to mental health professionals if you are struggling
- Use technology to stay close with others if you can. If you can’t use technology, try writing letter
Depression is a common emotion experienced after a brain injury – this includes concussions. Adjusting to your new self and your experiences is difficult and can result in elevated stress and feelings of depression.
Some actions you can take to cope with depression include:
- Avoid substance use
- Eating a balanced diet
- Find enjoyable hobbies
- Stick to an appropriate sleep schedule
- Try mindful activities like meditation