The Journal of the American Medical Association has released a new study showing the incidence of depression after a traumatic brain injury. They studied a group of 559 people who suffered head injuries, and found that the incidence of major depression was nearly eight times higher than would be expected in the general population. However, of those with depression, only about half were receiving adequate treatment, therapy or medication and researchers noted that these numbers were likely under-reported. This is significant due to the fact that nearly 3 million people are currently living with traumatic brain injuries.
It was found that head injuries can cause the structure of the brain and its function to change and can predispose accident victims to depression. The symptoms to be aware of include acting restless or lethargic, feeling unworthy, difficulty concentrating, guilty feelings, low energy, personality changes and thoughts of suicide. Those who were depressed also experienced more difficulties with pain and mobility. This corroborates previous studies on the subject and researchers note that depression can last up to decades after the injury occurred.
Clearly depression after traumatic brain injury is common, but treatment is not. It is an invisible illness caused by an often invisible injury, and doctors are educating themselves as well as their patients by promoting detection. Since those with brain injuries remain at risk for developing depression at any point after the injury, periodic screenings should be a standard for care of those patients.