Depression, Anxiety, PTSD, and Brain Injury…

Oh, My…..

This started as a blog about recovery from Traumatic Brain Injury and morphed into one about depression, anxiety, and PTSD.  Or did it really morph at all? They all are tied together in a complex knot of emotion, brain functions, and physical responses.  

The statistics on the number of people with depression varies slightly between research studies.  I’m going with the statistics found on Brain Line.  One in ten people without brain injury will suffer from depression.  Three in ten brain injury survivors will develop depression.  Sadness and grief are normal reactions to brain injury.  Depression is more serious and lasts longer. Developing depression is more common if the survivor had a previous experience with it.  Depression can be a chronic, life long medical problem

According to Dr. Marchand, the risk of recurrence — “relapse after full remission” — for a person who’s had one episode of depression is 50 percent. For a person with two episodes, the risk is about 70 percent. For someone with three episodes or more, the risk rises to around 90 percent.

Depression Relapse

Many of the symptoms of depression and brain injury overlap: fatigue, slow cognition, problems with concentration, lack of energy, sleep changes, irritability. Anxiety is common after brain injury.  It also goes hand and hand with depression.  

Whelan-Goodinson, R, Ponsford, J, Johnston, L and Grant, F (2009). Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation, Vol. 24(5), pp 324-332.

This research found that more than 60 percent of people with a brain injury had psychiatric disorders up to 5.5 years post-injury. Many of these were new cases of depression and anxiety and were not present prior to injury. The authors suggest that individuals with TBI should be screened for psychiatric disorders several times post-injury regardless of pre-injury psychiatric status, so that appropriate help can be offered.
Anxiety and Depression

Depression and anxiety may develop right after the injury or years later.  The can develop in any survivor, no matter if the brain injury was mild, moderate, or severe.

I had depression prior to the injury.  I followed the pattern of  depression relapse several times over decades. It is more serious and does not respond to medication as well post injury.   I never noticed anxiety symptoms.  If anxiety existed, it wasn’t at the level it bothered me or interfered with my life at the same level as the Dreaded D.  I now live with the burdens of anxiety and depression. In addition, I have panic attacks if overwhelmed. 

PTSD can develop as a result of the cause of the brain injury.  If it was a preexisting condition,it may worsen.  It is an anxiety disorder brought upon by trauma.  There is an overlap of symptoms of brain injury, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, depression.  

Sucidal thoughts are frequent. So many times I just want to give up.  It’s overwhelming. 

I was obsessed with figuring out what symptoms were caused by what issue: Depression, anxiety, PTSD, and/or brain injury. I finally came to the conclusion that it really didn’t matter.  I had to deal with the issues.  Currently I am in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.  I’m also working with a neuropsychiatrist to figure out medications might help.  It’s frustrating because my brain just doesn’t respond as before.  There is physical damage that cause changes in the neurons along with the development and effectiveness of neurotransmitters .  

It’s opening Pandora’s Box.  Chaos.  


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