Traumatic brain injury can often result in "invisible" side effects such as memory and attention problems, mood changes, or fatigue. Past research has shown that people who have a visible scar as "evidence" of a brain injury are less likely to experience feelings of social anxiety and misunderstandings than people without a visible scar.
Adolescents who experience a brain injury are particularly vulnerable to the stigma of their injury and may experience even more social anxiety as a result. A recent study of educational interventions for adolescent attitudes towards people with a brain injury was conducted, in which participants had:
- Direct contact with an injured person with a visible injury,
- Direct contact with a person without a visible injury, or
- No direct contact with the injured person at all.
Researchers found that simply putting other people in direct personal contact with a person who had a brain injury was much more effective at reducing their feelings of social stigma than having a visible injury. This study underlines the importance of brain injury education to the community. Improving education efforts by providing direct contact with people who have experienced a brain injury may be effective not only at reducing stigma and social anxiety, but also in community reintegration and social inclusion efforts.
Irwin LG & Fortune DG. Schools-based interventions for reducing stigmatization of acquired brain injury: The role of interpersonal contact and visible impairment. Archives of Clinical Neuropscyhology. (March 2014).