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Why Do You Feel Depressed After a TBI? by Charles Watson


Posted on February 22, 2021

Have you been feeling depressed lately? You might have already guessed that it’s due to a recent concussion or accident where you hit your head. Clinical depression is slightly different from what normal people feel. The dull, gloomy feeling is the same, except it’s not affected by your everyday life hurdles. Three out of 10 people with TBI experience clinical depression that is not only spontaneous but also hard to control. 

The Science behind Depression after TBI

Depression and other emotions are mainly controlled by the limbic system found in the temporal lobe. An almond-shaped collection of neurons, the amygdala, is responsible for processing emotions after receiving a brain signal. Since the amygdala is near to the frontal lobe, it is more likely to get damaged by a concussion or TBI.

The damage alters levels of the natural chemicals, known as neurotransmitters, in the brain. Neurotransmitters are basically involved in diffusing between the synaptic cavities and transmitting information, to target cells, by changing their electrical activity. A disbalance in this chemical agent can directly impact mood swings in TBI patients.

What to do about it?

Due to a lack of in-depth research and experiments, many neuropsychologists say that the time period for post-injury depression cannot be determined. Some patients might experience depression and other related emotions within days/weeks after their injury, while some may develop PTSD and depression many years after injury. 

However, that doesn’t change the treatment of depression. The first step is taking anti-depressants and mood stabilizers. Medications can lower the effects of depression temporarily, which is enough for a person to overcome such bouts. Most commonly used inhibitors include Methylphenidate and sertraline that have an instant calming and sedative effect.

A moderate number of people don’t like taking medications or simply don’t feel better from it. An efficient alternative can be getting some psychotherapy by consulting a psychologist/psychiatrist who is familiar with brain injury. 

A lot of people also feel depressed due to poor psychosocial functioning, impaired cognition, extreme fatigue, and apathy, as well as weight gain. If the above two options do not convince you, then an overall healthy and positive routine can be helpful.

Start from a healthy diet that must include a lot of anti-oxidants, nuts, green leafy vegetables, fruit, and protein. Also, make sure to stay hydrated. Secondly, try meditating or simple exercises that can help to release any built-up stress and tension. Consulting a therapist can never go wrong, so make sure to stay in touch with one. Avoid being near things/crowds that can trigger an anxiety/panic attack.

Caring for Caregivers 

Since the majority of TBI patients need a caregiver or family member to look after them, it can get pretty stressful and depressing for them as well. It’s essential for caregivers to also take a break once or twice a month. If it’s possible, then consulting a psychiatrist can also help in coping with their own problems and trauma of losing a loved one. Moreover, having a support group, individual counseling for caregivers, and family therapies can be a great way to get some of the burdens off your shoulders.