Active versus passive coping after traumatic brain injury

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Coping with the negative effects of traumatic brain injury is an important aspect of a person's ability to rehabilitate, as well as adapt to a changed lifestyle. There are different coping strategies that a patient can use. One is to actively confront a challenge by gathering information, cultivating skills, or changing a situation in order to adapt. Another, more passive, coping strategy is to regulate one's emotional response to a challenge by suppressing negative thinking, distracting one's thoughts, or learning to accept a negative situation.

A recent study found that people who used a passive coping strategy had a greater number of subjective complaints, and were less likely to seek social support to help with their challenges. People whose injury had occurred a long time before were more likely to use a passive coping strategy, suggesting that, over time, people may stop actively trying to change their situation and instead enter a more passive, emotion-based frame of mind.

Additionally, people with higher education more readily used active coping strategies in order to directly deal with their challenges, and people with lower levels of education tended to use passive coping strategies. Since passive coping strategies tend not to be as effective as active coping strategies, rehabilitation professionals might consider guiding their patients towards more active participation.

Wolters G, Stapert S, Brands I, & van Heugten C. Coping following acquired brain injury: Predictors and correlates. Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation. (July 2010).