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The man who used to shrug – one man’s lived experience of TBI

Walsh, R Stephen and Crawley, Lorraine and Dagnall, Neil and Fortune, Donal G (2020) The man who used to shrug – one man’s lived experience of TBI. NeuroRehabilitation, 47 (1). pp. 11-24. ISSN 1053-8135


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BACKGROUND: Stress is common to the experience of TBI. Stressors challenge physical and psychological coping abilities and undermine wellbeing. Brain injury constitutes a specific chronic stressor. An issue that hinders the usefulness of a stress-based approach to brain injury is a lack of semantic clarity attaching to the term stress. A more precise conceptualisation of stress that embraces experienced uncertainty is allostasis. OBJECTIVE: An emerging body of research, collectively identifiable as ‘the social cure’ literature, shows that the groups that people belong to can promote adjustment, coping, and well-being amongst individuals confronted with injuries, illnesses, traumas, and stressors. The idea is deceptively simple, yet extraordinarily useful: the sense of self that individuals derive from belonging to social groups plays a key role in determining health and well-being. The objective of this research was to apply a social cure perspective to a consideration of an individual’s lived experience of TBI. METHODS: In a novel application of interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) this research has investigated one person’s lived experience in a single case study of traumatic brain injury. RESULTS: Paradox, shifting perspectives and self under stress, linked by uncertainty, were the themes identified. CONCLUSIONS: A relational approach must be key to TBI rehabilitation.

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