Can people with brain injury get more depressed in the winter, especially if they live where it’s rarely sunny? I have a brain injury and just feel really tired, irritable, and depressed more than usual. What do you think?
There has been no research specifically linking seasonal affective disorder to brain injury, and only one article — a case study — that even discusses the issue. However, mood disorders are the most frequent psychiatric illness observed among patients with a TBI. Findings from research indicate that the frequency of mood disorders is significantly greater (up to two times as high according to some studies) in patients with a TBI than in patients with other traumatic injuries but without central nervous system involvement.
Studies suggest that structural brain damage associated with a TBI is an important contributing factor to the development of affective disorders, particularly major depression, bipolar affective disorder, and the anxiety disorders. These kinds of problems following a brain injury may be the result of actual structural change in the brain, and/or may reflect the individual’s reaction and response to the brain injury and all of the life changes it requires.
So, the short answer to your question is that whether or not your feelings are due to your TBI, it is recommended that you speak with your doctor, or a mental health professional, about your concerns. Be sure to consult with someone who has knowledge about brain injury as psychiatric symptoms may manifest themselves differently and response to treatment may be different for individuals with a brain injury than for others.
Dr. Celeste Campbell is a neuropsychologist in the Polytrauma Program at the Washington, DC Veterans Administration Medical Center. She has a long history of providing cognitive psychotherapy and developing residential behavioral management programs for children and adults.