It is very common for people to experience depression following a traumatic brain injury. According to the Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center, depression affects approximately two-thirds of all brain injury patients within seven years of the injury, with approximately one-half of all TBI patients experiencing depression within one year of the injury.
Depression is an overwhelming feeling of despair, hopelessness or sadness that persists over time. There are several factors that may contribute to depression following a TBI.
Emotional response to the injury
A person with a TBI may lose a place he or she values in society or have to take on a different role within his or her family. TBI can cause physical disability to which the patient has to adjust. All of these changes, happening so quickly, can take an emotional toll on the patient, and the struggle to adjust could contribute to depression.
Physical changes in the brain
There are centers in the brain that are responsible for emotions. Damage to these areas due to a TBI could result in depression. A TBI can also affect the levels of chemicals called neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters carry messages that produce physical and emotional effects.
Underlying risk factors
A patient may already have risk factors for depression unrelated to his or her injury, such as family history and heredity. These other factors may come into play after a brain injury.
Regardless of the cause, depression does not get better on its own. Fortunately, there are different treatment options available for people who experience depression following a traumatic brain injury.