In most cases, brain injuries and mental health conditions are regarded as two separate diagnoses, but they can also be misinterpreted to mean the same thing. However, both circumstances can be true. Even mild head injuries and concussion shouldn’t be overlooked.
Any individual can suffer a brain injury unrelated to their mental health. Occasionally, a brain injury could worsen existing mental health problems – but there are several ways in which mental health and brain injury can simultaneously influence and affect a patient.
For any brain injury sufferer, mental health should be addressed as an integral part of a structured treatment plan. Whether you work in healthcare, or you’ve recently suffered a brain injury, it’s worth knowing the risks and associations.
What is the link between brain injuries and mental health?
Research from the University of Cambridge found that almost half of people with concussion still show symptoms six months later, including cognitive impairment and tiredness. Frequently reported issues include anxiety, anger, thinking problems, and finding it difficult to regulate behaviour.
When someone has a brain injury, parts of the brain can change in structure and function or can be permanently weakened. Along with motor functions like movement and speech, changes to the brain can trigger a wide range of psychological effects.
Depression is also common – and it’s thought than this can develop either from changes to the parts of the brain that regulate emotions, or as a result of individuals struggling to cope with lifestyle changes. In some cases, poor mental health can delay patients from seeking support for their recovery through brain injury claims and professional advice.
Mental health: Brain injuries and depression
Within the context of an existing brain injury, depression can become slightly more difficult to diagnose. Several factors can contribute to the onset of depression after a traumatic brain injury, and these include:
- Physical or structural changes in the brain. As a result of the injury, depression could stem from injured areas of the brain that regulate emotions. Additionally, changes to hormones and neurotransmitters can cause depression.
- Emotional response. If a person finds it hard to adjust to temporary or permanent disability, they might experience significant lifestyle changes in their family and in society.
- Unrelated factors. Unfortunately, certain individuals are more genetically predisposed to suffer depression. Family history and external circumstances play a role too.
Both for patients and medical professionals, it can also be tricky to treat mental health issues within the context of brain injury recovery. For this reason, structured and regular counselling should make up a vital part of a recovery programme.
What can be done to improve mental health after a brain injury?
If you’ve suffered a brain injury and you’re experiencing symptoms of depression, it’s important to seek help as soon as possible. These include a low mood, loss of interest in your usual activities, and tiredness or irritability – but this condition is experienced differently by each individual.
Treatment is the only way to prevent symptoms from worsening, whether through counselling, talking therapies like cognitive behavioural therapy, or antidepressant medications.
Brain injury patients should also be offered comprehensive treatment that includes counselling, regardless of whether they have started to show signs of depression. In this type of clinical setting, prevention is critical – and individuals need personal, tailored support.