Traumatic brain injury (TBI) occurs in many ways, including car accidents, motorcycle accidents, and falls. Most people know that TBI can cause cognitive impairment, which may be mild to severe. And, since the brain is the command center for the body it probably comes as no surprise that a brain injury can also cause a variety of physical problems, ranging from sensory disruptions to weakness and balance issues.
However, the emotional and psychological issues brain injury can trigger aren’t as well understood, and can be overlooked or misperceived when they occur in TBI victims.
In a 2010 study, researchers assessed adults who had been hospitalized with mild to severe TBI one month, six months, eight months, 10 months, and 12 months post-injury. More than 53% of patients met the criteria for “major depressive disorder” (MDD) at least once during that year. When patients are tracked over a longer period, the incidence of depression increases to about 65%.
Depression may be triggered by physical changes in the brain, an emotional / psychological response to the injury and resulting limitations, one or both of those factors triggering a pre-existing tendency toward depression, or a combination of factors.
Major depression alone presents a significant challenge, but in brain injury victims it can complicate an already complex and difficult situation. First, it can be difficult to separate symptoms of depression from symptoms of traumatic brain injury. Both TBI and depression can cause sleep disturbances. Both may result in lethargy and difficulty concentrating. Feelings of worthlessness and loss of sense of purpose may be attributable to depression, or may be a transitional response to being unable to
Further, major depression can exacerbate some brain injury symptoms, such as aggression, anxiety, and reduced cognitive function. Brain injury patients suffering from depression even have higher medical costs than their non-depressed counterparts.
Last month, a new study revealed positive effects of cognitive training after a brain injury. Every depressed brain injury victim who participated in training experienced a lessening of depression, which was correlated with improved cognition and daily life functions. In fact, over time, these patients experienced positive physical changes in the brain.
Although the study is new and involved only a limited number of brain injury patients, the outcome is promising for TBI victims. Even study participants who has sustained their injuries years before the trial showed improvement.
While new discoveries such as the impact of cognitive therapy on depression and brain activity in brain injury patients promise a better future for those who have suffered such injuries, the path is still challenging. A brain injury can impact every area of your life, from your ability to earn a living to your relationships with the people around you.
If you’ve suffered a brain injury because someone else was negligent, you owe it to yourself and your family to learn more about your rights and options.
Whether you sustained a brain injury in a car or motorcycle accident, fell on someone else’s poorly-maintained property, or were injured on a job site, help is available. Just schedule a free consultation to get started.