Treatment Patterns of Anxiety and PTSD Following TBI

Madeline R. Marks, Ph.D., Moira C. Dux, Ph.D., Vani Rao, M.D., Jennifer S. Albrecht, Ph.D.
Pharmacy shelves of medication



Symptoms of mental disorders are common, are underrecognized, and contribute to worse outcomes after traumatic brain injury (TBI). Post-TBI, prevalence of anxiety disorders and prevalence of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are comparable with that of depression, but evidence-based treatment guidelines are lacking. The investigators examined psychotropic medication use and psychotherapy patterns among individuals diagnosed with anxiety disorders and PTSD post-TBI.


Administrative claims data were used to compare the prevalence and patterns of pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy utilization among individuals diagnosed with an anxiety disorder or PTSD post-TBI.


Among 207,354 adults with TBI, prevalence of anxiety disorders was 20.5%, and prevalence of PTSD was 0.6% post-TBI. Receipt of pharmacotherapy pre- and post-TBI (anxiety: pre-TBI=58.4%, post-TBI=76.2%; PTSD: pre-TBI=53.7%, post-TBI=75.2%) was considerably more common than receipt of psychotherapy (anxiety: pre-TBI=5.8%, post-TBI=19.1%; PTSD: pre-TBI=11.2%, post-TBI=36.0%). Individuals diagnosed with anxiety were 66% less likely to receive psychotherapy compared with individuals diagnosed with PTSD, although engagement in psychotherapy decreased faster over time among those with PTSD. Overall, psychotropic medication use and rates of antidepressant prescription use in the anxiety group were higher compared with those in the PTSD group. Benzodiazepines were the second most commonly prescribed medication class in the anxiety group, even though judicious use is warranted post-TBI.


Further exploration of differences and risks associated with pharmacotherapy for anxiety and PTSD post-TBI is warranted to refine treatment guidelines. The low level of psychotherapy engagement suggests that barriers and facilitators to psychotherapy utilization post-TBI should be examined in future studies.

Posted on BrainLine November 18, 2022. Reviewed November 18, 2022.