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Neurological Rehabilitation

Traumatic Brain Injury and Depression: Causes and Signs

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a condition when the normal functions of the brain get disrupted due to:

  1. A blow, a bump, or a jolt to the head.
  2. The head violently hits an object.
  3. When a sharp pointed object goes through the skull and enters the brain tissue. 

These instances may happen during a fall, vehicle collision, or sports injury and result in problems with brain functions.

After experiencing a brain injury, the survivor may have feelings of loss, despair, sadness, or hopelessness that do not improve over time. It can overwhelm the person to the point that it interferes with their daily lives. This is called depression, and there are other symptoms of depression, such as the following.

  • Feeling down, sad, or blue.
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities that they used to enjoy
  • Tiredness or lack of energy
  • Feeling restless, fidgety
  • Feeling guilty, worthless, or being a failure
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Withdrawing from others
  • Thoughts of suicide and death

After a traumatic brain injury, it is normal to feel sad. After all, you face some changes and challenges once you sustain them. However, feeling sad for a long time, or when you cease to enjoy the activities and things that you loved before the injury, can be a sign of depression, especially if you exhibit any or some of the above-listed symptoms.

Depression is a common problem after a traumatic brain injury.

Understanding the connection between traumatic brain injury and depression is crucial to identify the signs and find proper treatment methods.

There are various contributing factors to depression; however, suffering from a brain injury can add to the risk of developing the disease. After TBI, one can never tell when the symptoms will arise.

Listed below are the contributing factors to depression after a traumatic brain injury.

* Physical changes in the brain when the frontal lobe suffers an injury resulting in post-TBI depression. The frontal lobe is the part of the brain responsible for managing emotions.

* Emotional struggles by the TBI survivor may also contribute to depression. This usually happens when the person adjusts to life after brain injury using limited abilities.

* Genetics and other factors. If depression is present in the family history, the individual may have a higher chance of getting depressed after TBI.

How to Treat or Manage Depression After a Traumatic Head Injury  

There are several methods of treating depression after a head injury. Some of the most recommended treatments include anti-depressant medication, psychotherapy, and brain physio. Brain physio is a specialist area of Physiotherapy that treats people with neurological conditions that harm how the brain, spinal cord, and nerve function.

Anti-depressants are commonly prescribed to people suffering from depression. These medications help regulate the level of neurotransmitters in the brain. A person can take them safely for a few months, depending on how severe the depression is and your doctor’s instructions.

Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, is considered among the best treatment methods for depression after TBI. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is the most effective psychotherapy for brain injury survivors. CBT can help the TBI survivor safely explore the underlying feelings that give rise to depression. The three principles of CBT are:

1) Beliefs create feelings

2) Feelings dictate behaviour

3) Behaviour reinforces belief.


A treatment program for depression needs to be integrated into the treatment plan. This should result in traumatic brain injury and depression moving forward together.

When you see symptoms of depression after TBI in yourself or someone you love, remember this is a health concern that should not be ignored. Talk to your caregiver or health care professional at the earliest time possible. There will always be helpful and effective treatments for depression that will be made available to you.

Mission Walk is a physiotherapy and rehabilitation centre with a team of mental health professionals, psychiatrists, social workers, counsellors, physicians, neurologists, physiatrists, and nurse practitioners who are experienced, trained, and qualified to treat depression.

Contact Mission Walk for more information about depression and traumatic brain injury. 

We will be happy to help with our expert panel of physiotherapists, who are pros at what they do and are total and complete professionals. 

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