Post Concussion Syndrome

Post concussion syndrome (PCS) is an often misunderstood disorder which affects survivors of mild to moderate brain injury. It consists of a combination of symptoms which can last for months or even years. PCS can include physical, cognitive, and/or emotional impairment. Its effect on mood and behavior can be frightening and frustrating for victims and their loved ones.

Life with post concussion syndrome

The symptoms of PCS can come and go. Mood swings, irritability, and extreme fatigue are common problems for people with PCS. A very productive day is often followed by a day of exhaustion. The symptoms are unpredictable, and a person who is seems to be fine most of the time, may not be able to function normally on a consistent enough basis to hold down a job.


The symptoms of PCS fall into three categories – physical, cognitive, and emotional. These symptoms can include:

• Headaches

• Ringing ears

• Dizziness

• Nausea and/or vomiting

• Balance problems

• Sleep disorders

• Fatigue

• Exhaustion

• Weakness

• Difficulty with controlled movements

• Vision problems

• Sensitivity to light

• Hearing problems

• Sensitivity to noise

• Decrease or change in sense of taste

• Decrease or change in sense of smell

• Loss of libido and/or sexual dysfunction

• Difficulty concentrating

• Memory problems

• Amnesia

• Foggy thinking

• Confusion

• Periods of mental dullness

• Impaired attention

• Personality changes

• Extreme mood swings

• Unexplained anger

• Depression

• Anxiety

• Restlessness

• Frustration

• Irritability

• Loss of self-confidence

• Low self-esteem


Misdiagnosis of PCS is very common, but thankfully, awareness of the disorder is increasing. The medical community has known about PCS since the 1800’s, but its origins have been a matter of controversy.

Unfortunately, many people with PCS are misdiagnosed as and inappropriately medicated. Not only does this prevent them from getting the proper treatment and rehabilitation, but the medications often have side effects which make the symptoms even worse. Common misdiagnoses include:


• Anxiety

• Depression

• Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Other terms for PCS

PCS is sometimes called:

• Traumatic dephalgia

• Chronic brain syndrome

• Traumatic head syndrome

• Post concussive syndrome

• Post traumatic syndrome

• Post brain injury syndrome

Getting help

If you suspect that you may have PCS, you should talk to your doctor. Many doctors are still skeptical about the disorder. If your doctor does not take your symptoms seriously, considering finding another doctor. Brain injury survivors need the care of brain injury specialists. Even if you were told that your brain injury was “mild” you may need to work with a team of specialist to get the care that you need to fully recover. Mild is a misleading term when it comes to brain injury. It refers only to the initial trauma, not to the long term consequences.