Why Do People Get Depression After a Brain Injury?

Question: 

Why do people get depression after brain injury?

Answer: 

There are a number of reasons why people get depressed after a brain injury and things contributing to that depression. The biological reason is that direct injury to the brain can affect areas of the brain that control emotions. Injuries to those areas can cause imbalances in the natural chemicals in a person’s brain, called neurotransmitters.

There are also important psychological and social reasons. People after a brain injury have to adapt to a lot of losses: losses in functioning, losses in their roles. A lot of the coping strategies that a person is used to using are either not as easily accessible or just aren’t there.

People who have had a brain injury and suffer from depression often don’t look any different than how they were before their brain injury. Family and friends often don’t realize that they’re suffering and this can add to their frustration. People with brain injuries often have a sense of stigma because of their brain injury. Sometimes admitting that they are depressed can feel like an added stigma on top of their brain injury.

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Posted on BrainLine August 7, 2018.

About the author: Jesse Fann, MD

Jesse Fann, M.D., M.P.H., is a consultation-liaison psychiatrist in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Washington and an adjunct professor in the UW departments of Rehabilitation Medicine and Epidemiology. His clinical interests include consultation-liaison psychiatry, psychiatric oncology and neuropsychiatry. His research interests include psychiatric epidemiology, health services research, psychiatric oncology and neuropsychiatry.