Head Concussion Is Likely to Cause Depression. Here’s Why
Mental health is ridiculously connected to one's physical and spiritual state. More and more psychologists agree upon considering depression as a symptom rather than a disease in and of itself. No wonder that such physical traumas as head concussion and its aftermath can lead to depression.
Concussion can be also referred to as a mild traumatic brain injury or mTBI. It's a head injury that affects brain functioning, such as cognition, emotional regulation, and sensory perception. Most common causes of such trauma involve motor vehicle collisions, bicycle accidents, falls, and sports injuries.
Signs That You Might Have Had A Concussion:
- Loss of consciousness
- Headache, dizziness, confusion
- Memory loss
- Heightened sensitivity to light and sounds
- Nausea, vomiting
- Changed perception of taste or smell
- Slurred speech
- Difficulty concentrating and thinking
- Difficulty maintaining balance
- Blurred vision
- Sleep disturbances or insomnia
- Changes in mood
These symptoms can appear immediately after the injury, but they may as well appear even days after it. Also, their duration may vary from hours to a few weeks. If you experience any of these symptoms, don't wait any longer and go see a doctor.
Post-concussion syndrome, also known as postconcussive syndrome or PCS, refers to a set of symptoms that persist for weeks, months, or even years after a head trauma. It affects around 10-15 % of people who had a concussion.
Can concussions cause depression? Most definitely yes. Research suggest that it's actually more likely to develop depression for those who experienced a brain injury than those among common population. Depression, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts can emerge as a symptom of post-concussion syndrome or as a result of understimulating recovery period.
Depression Symptoms Include:
- Continuous low mood or sadness
- Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness
- Feelings of guilt and shame
- Low self-esteem
- Loss of interest in daily activities, social life, hobbies
- Appetite or weight changes (loss of appetite or overeating)
- Sleep changes (insomnia or oversleeping)
- Anger or irritability
- Feeling anxious and worried
- Loss of energy, chronic fatigue
- Reckless behavior
- Problems with concentration and attention
- Unexplained aches and pains
- Suicidal or self-harming thoughts
Reasons Why Post-Concussion Can Lead to Depression:
1. Physical disruption in the brain
The reason behind one's post-concussion depression can be very straight-forward – that is physical.
A concussion may involve a trauma in certain areas in the brain that regulate behavioral and emotional responses. These parts involve hypothalamus, hippocampus, amygdala, and limbic cortex, all of which combine into a group called the limbic system. It can cause a disruption of neurotransmitter systems or a hormone imbalance.
People who already have a history of depression or anxiety or a tendency for mood swings and irritability may have these mental health problems exacerbated by the injury. Therefore, such people should inform their neurologist in order to take action at preventing it.
2. Post-traumatic stress
Concussion can be a traumatic experience in and of itself. It reminds a person involved way too well of his or her fragility and mortality. This can lead to a post-traumatic stress or even a PTSD. Older population is especially at risk of developing such disorder after a concussion.
People can also develop a tendency to refrain from activities that seem to be risky and dangerous, even if they objectively are not, such as walking down the stairs or spending time outside. This may cause social isolation, which in turn can lead to loneliness – a higher risk factor to develop depression in any age group.
Any kind of chronic stress is damaging to the brain.
3. Understimulating environment
Unknowingly, we do all sorts of things throughout our days to maintain a healthy mind. We keep our brain engaged in cognitive activities, we exercise, we spend time outside, we socialize, we engage in creative affairs...
If we are mentally healthy it means we keep arousing our brain with a variety stimulants. But when someone gets a concussion, the recommended recovery program involves as little stimulation as possible, if not any at all.
To do absolutely nothing for days can be too much to handle emotionally for many people. It can be especially stressful for those who are already more prone to dive into depressive moods. It takes a toll on those who are generally socially, physically, and intellectually very active too.
This kind of depression can disappear as soon as a person is physically well enough to start reintroducing the daily activities to get back to a normal life. But it's nonetheless crucial to inform a neurologist about such deviations in one's emotions as soon as they occur.