Download PDF Encephalitis:after-effects, recovery and rehabilitation

Some people recover from encephalitis with a few or no difficulties. Other people are left with significant after-effects. This booklet provides key information about the type of issues that people may have after encephalitis, why rehabilitation/support from professionals and families are important and what options for self-help are available.

This booklet is aimed at all people affected by encephalitis worldwide. For this reason, we are not signposting to any specific local/national organisations that may be appropriate for your recovery. If you would like information about these organisations in the UK please read Encephalitis in adults. A guide.

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Life after encephalitis: key facts

Encephalitis may result in an acquired brain injury (ABI).

Encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain. Although some people recover from encephalitis with no consequences, in some people nerve cells in the brain may be damaged or destroyed by the inflammation. The resulting damage is termed an acquired brain injury (ABI).


No two people with encephalitis have an identical outcome.

The degree and the type of damage vary according to the cause of encephalitis, the severity of the inflammation, the area of the brain affected and any delay in administering the appropriate treatment.

Most of the after-effects of encephalitis are hidden (invisible).

People affected by encephalitis may look like they did before the illness with more problems being cognitive, emotional, behavioural and social rather than physical. Some of the problems can be subtle at the time
of discharge from hospital, but become evident later, when people are attempting to get back to normal life and work. The danger is that these problems may be misattributed to factors such as ‘stress’ rather than being associated with their brain injury.

Encephalitis can affect people’s emotions and the way people perceive themselves and others.

The emotional impact of encephalitis is different for each individual depending on the brain systems affected by encephalitis, their personality, their emotional state prior to their brain injury, their social support network (family and friends) and their stage of recovery. An emotional reaction to the brain injury may sometimes be the first step
on the road to recovery. This is because it suggests that people are more likely to have an understanding of their strengths and weaknesses and may therefore be more likely to benefit from rehabilitation.

People recover at different paces, however, there can be a continuum of improvement.

Initial recovery may be rapid but it can fall short of complete. Further recovery takes place more slowly over a period of months and even years. Healthy diet, gentle exercise, rest, pacing your activities, determination, a positive attitude and emotional and practical support can help your recovery.

Encephalitis is a family affair.

Coming to terms with the problems left by this illness can be distressing and challenging for everyone concerned. Initially, there may be relief and joy that the person affected has survived. Later, when it becomes evident that the person cannot function like they did before the illness, there may be a sense of loss and grief. Everyone deals with grief in their own way and time. Whilst it is important to acknowledge the loss and allow time to grieve, support from family, friends and professionals can make all the difference.

The Encephalitis Society is aware of some amazing stories of recovery.

People discover new skills and interests, make new friendships and become closer to their families.


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