Why Is Depression the Number One Symptom After a Brain Injury?

Some 20-60% of people with a TBI experience depression soon after the injury or even years later. Learn why it's so prevalent.

The most common mental illness that would occur after a brain injury is depression, which can occur, depending on the study, from anywhere from 20% to 60% of individuals after traumatic brain injury. It can occur in the first few months, but it can even occur--you know--months or even, studies have shown, years after the actual traumatic brain injury. Why is it more common? You know, we don't know. It may be that the areas of the brain that get injured are those that are more involved in producing depression. And certainly some studies show a correlation between the area of the brain that's injured and then subsequent depression. It could be that the chemical systems involved, the neurotransmitters involved during brain injury that get disrupted affect mood more than, maybe, some other behaviors. We have to appreciate that depression is a common disorder and it's one of the most common psychiatric disorders. So, certainly depression can be as a result of physiologic dysfunction of the areas of the brain, but we also know that other things make individuals depressed whether or not they have had a traumatic brain injury. So, being in a traumatic circumstance, having loss of certain functions, having problems with your social system and support, being unemployed, being in chronic pain--all can produce depression in addition to the effects of having the brain injury.
Posted on BrainLine June 9, 2011.

Produced by Vicky Youcha and Ashley Gilleland, BrainLine.