March 1, 2024

Head injuries are one of the most common types of injury and can range from mild injury to severe traumatic brain injury (TBI). Head injury can occur due to instances like falls, motor vehicle accidents, physical assaults, sports-related accidents, etc. The effect of the head injury varies on the severity, and the symptoms of the head injury can include dizziness, loss of consciousness, disability, coma, or even death. Any severe injury on the head that damages the skull, brain, or blood supply to the brain is termed as “traumatic brain injury” (TBI). It can also include injury to the spinal cord. The clinical conditions of the TBI cause alterations in the normal brain functioning like decreased consciousness, loss of memory, muscle weakness, loss of cognitive function, mental disorientation, etc. 

How does TBI affect the brain and moods of those who suffer from it, like depression or anxiety disorders?

The patients suffering from traumatic brain injury (TBI) may have several issues that might affect normal functioning like:

  1. The inability of normal functioning caused within the patients due to the TBI makes the patient feel low; it alters their mood and triggers depression.
  2. It can cause permanent dependency of the patient on their family members. This dependency may affect them emotionally, and it can lead to depression.
  3. During the traumatic brain injury, any damage to the brain area responsible for controlling the emotional capability can also lead to depression.

Patients undergoing depression can easily despair and lose interest in their surroundings and daily activities. These patients may have a feeling of failure, disinterest in their surroundings, loss of sleep and appetite. Patients feel disconnected from their loved ones, lack energy, etc. Prolonged depression in a patient may generate thoughts of death or suicide.

How common is depression after TBI?

Often, depression is seen in patients affected by traumatic brain injury, and half of the TBI patients undergo depression within the first few months of the injury. However, some patients may experience depression years after injury. 

What causes depression after TBI?

Different factors may lead to depression in the patient suffering from TBI. The severity of depression varies for different patients based on their condition. These factors include:

  • Physical changes in the brain post-injury: The different brain areas are responsible for controlling emotions. Damage to such brain parts may lead to depression in the TBI patient.
  • Emotional response: Patients’ prolonged struggles due to their incapability of doing normal functions due to the brain injury and their dependencies on others can cause depression.
  • Factors not associated with brain injury: Depression is caused due to other factors like genetics, family history, or other elements present before the brain injury.

Symptoms of depression after TBI

The symptoms commonly observed in the patients suffering from depression caused by TBI include sadness, depression, etc. These patients have altered sleeping habits or insomnia (loss of sleep). They lose interest in their surroundings and other daily activities. These patients are sad and can have thoughts of suicide due to feelings of hopelessness. 

What can be done about depression after TBI?

Depression is a serious disorder and should be addressed immediately. Seek professional help as it plays a crucial role in treating depression in TBI patients. Medication may help in treating depression. These medications may help improve mental conditions by decreasing the levels of stress hormones in the body. In addition, family and friends can support the patient to improve their mental health. There are clinics to help patients with depression. The doctor can advise on therapy or counseling sessions as a part of treatment. These approaches include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): In this session, they help the patients change their life approach. The therapist teaches the patients to live with their disabilities and the condition caused by the TBI. It enables the patient to adapt to the condition to lead a happy life.
  • Behavioral activation therapy: This counseling session helps the patients to become more active and encourages performing their normal day-to-day activities—behavioral activation therapy aids in improving the patient’s mood.

How to find help?

Depression can be managed with proper treatment. However, the patient seek help in the early stage. TBI patients with depression can be treated with alternative methods that include:

  • Psychiatrist counseling sessions are very beneficial as the counselor has the specialization in treating depression. They understand the patient’s condition, which further helps in the treatment.
  • The physicians, neurologists, nurse practitioners can also help the patient with the treatment of depression.
  • Attending comprehensive rehabilitation sessions makes the recovery process easier for patients with depression caused by traumatic brain injury.

Depression may be observed in patients with traumatic brain injury and depends on the severity of the brain damage or the patient’s mental health. Treatment for depression is possible with the help of medications and therapy. Support from the family and friends is also essential as it helps improve the patient’s mental condition and process of healing.