The long-term consequences of trauma can vary, and for some people, the symptoms are severe.
In fact, some people have a life-threatening condition called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS.
People with this illness are usually left with the physical signs of a traumatic brain injury, but it’s the mental symptoms that make it hard for them to get out of bed or to move around.
“It’s a huge burden on a person,” said Dr. Peter Dutton, a neuropsychiatrist who is director of the Canadian Neuropsychiatric Association’s Center for Cognitive Health.
“The effects of this illness and how it manifests can be profound.”
The condition affects up to two-thirds of people with ALS, according to the ALS Association.
The condition is so disabling that the majority of people cannot walk or talk for more than a few minutes.
People often don’t realize they’re suffering until it’s too late.
Symptoms of ALS are often milder than those of other conditions, but some people are more affected.
“In many ways, it’s like the old saying about ‘if you’re not a surgeon, you’re a doctor,'” said Dr., Dr. David Anderson, a neurologist and neuroscientist at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.
“They may be the best thing that could happen to a person, because they’re the best person to be treating them.”
There’s also a stigma attached to ALS, so it’s common to see people with the disease referred to as “malingerers.”
While some people may think they’re simply not capable of being a caregiver, Anderson and Dutton say that’s not always the case.
The conditions can be life-changing for people with mild-to-moderate disabilities.
If a caregaper does manage to get them to bed safely, they often need to be monitored 24/7.
“I would say the most common diagnosis is that they are not able to function at home,” Anderson said.
“And the reason is they’re having difficulty sleeping, and they’re being so tired, they’re not feeling very well, they can’t concentrate, they don’t feel their legs.”
People with ALS can also have a difficult time with daily tasks such as cooking or cleaning.
Some people may need to do the work themselves.
“Some people can only do a certain amount of it at a time, or they have difficulty with it in particular areas,” Anderson explained.
“If someone is doing an office job, or cleaning a house, that’s going to be a challenge.
You need to go in and get them done in the evening, or even later in the day.”
Anderson also notes that many people with other illnesses, including Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease, are often more easily able to manage chronic illnesses like ALS.
“That’s why we’ve seen a lot of people who have ALS recover,” he said.
However, the condition can have an impact on other areas of life as well.
Some caregivers struggle to take care of loved ones, and some can’t work.
“This has been shown in other studies, and it’s been linked to some disability,” Anderson added.
“So, people with disabilities have a different ability to manage those conditions, and that can lead to a variety of issues that we see.”
While it’s rare, people who suffer from ALS may need physical therapy, which can help them maintain their health.
Anderson says some people with it will have to take a drug that makes them feel better.
“We have to be aware that we’re going to have to adjust our strategies, and I think that’s a very difficult thing to do, especially for people who don’t have a history of severe depression,” he explained.
If people are able to go to work or school, they may have to deal with staff shortages.
“You’re dealing with people who may not have the capacity to work, and we have to do everything we can to make sure we’re making the best use of the resources that we have,” Anderson noted.
In some cases, people can be locked up for long periods of time.
“There’s a lot that we don’t know about how these things work,” Anderson continued.
“But the important thing is that we can intervene early, because once you’ve done that, it becomes a really challenging process.”
And if the condition gets worse, people may have difficulty making their decisions about how they spend their time and money.
“Our primary concern is that people are not going to feel able to work if they’re on a medication, because then they’re basically just a zombie,” said Anderson.
Ultimately, that can have a detrimental effect on people’s well-being, so we have some work to do to address that.”