Many people assume that you need a full MRI or CT scan to diagnose a traumatic brain injury (TBI), but the truth is that these machines are rarely accurate when it comes to identifying a TBI. Instead, doctors will look for a cluster of symptoms known to affect most brain injury victims. And one of the most telling signs that someone has sustained a TBI also happens to be one of the most unexpected: Depression.
According to the latest research, major depressive disorder is the number one symptom of TBI, with more than 61% of all patients reporting depression within the first 7 years of their injury, and over half reporting symptoms within the first year. As medical science continues to improve, doctors are becoming better at spotting the signs of traumatic brain injury, and recommending effective therapies to treat this misunderstood condition. With time, this could mean improved clinical outcomes for the 1.4 million people who sustain a TBI annually, as well as a greater understanding for those suffering from TBI-related depression.
The Link Between Depression and TBI
The human brain is a delicate organ, and nearly any trauma to the skull region may result in a traumatic brain injury. While brain injuries can range in severity, many TBIs can result in brain cell death, memory loss, emotional instability, and other serious side effects – especially if the TBI is left untreated for too long.
This is why depression can occur even when the victim has only sustained a mild TBI, also known as a concussion. To compound the problem, patients who suffer from untreated TBI-related depression for more than 6 months may experience long-term or permanent deterioration in social functioning, reducing their quality of life and future prospects for employment.
Here are some of the main causes of depression after a TBI:
- Physical brain changes. Although all TBIs have the potential to change the brain’s fundamental structure, some injuries directly impact the areas controlling emotional responses. This can block the creation of serotonin and other crucial neurotransmitters.
- Lack of societal acceptance. After a concussion, many patients are treated exactly the same way as they were before, despite battling with ongoing injury symptoms. Over time, this trivialization of a serious condition can lead people to feel isolated, leading to depression.
- Personal emotional response to the injury. It can be difficult for TBI victims to adjust after their injury. Because depression can be caused by emotional responses as well as physical ones, intense feelings of anxiety, fear, and sadness are common and can amplify any physical changes in the brain.
Seeking Help for TBI-related Depression
Of course, in spite of these statistics, many TBI victims have been able to successfully stem the symptoms of depression through psychotherapy and antidepressant medications. Some may even be able to take SSRIs and other effective neurotransmitter-based medications when used under the guidance of a qualified psychiatrist.
If you’ve been suffering from any of the symptoms of depression after a serious accident, it’s important to seek medical help right away. While there are still many stigmas about both depression and TBIs, both are serious conditions that deserve support, care, and medical treatment.
If you need financial assistance after your brain injury, contact our attorneys at Hare, Wynn, Newell & Newton, LLP. We can fight on your behalf if negligence caused your TBI.