Can Concussions Cause Depression?

Concussions are a common type of traumatic brain injury that can occur due to a blow or jolt to the head. While many people associate concussions with physical symptoms like headaches, dizziness, and nausea, they can also affect a person’s mental health. In recent years, researchers have been trying to determine if concussions are linked to depression.

Understanding Concussions

A concussion occurs when the brain is jolted or shaken inside the skull, causing it to bounce or twist. This can cause damage to the brain’s cells and disrupt its normal functioning. Concussions can be caused by a variety of things, including falls, car accidents, sports injuries, and physical assaults.

Some of the most common symptoms of a concussion include:

  • Headaches or pressure in the head
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Blurred vision or sensitivity to light
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering
  • Irritability or mood changes
  • Feeling slowed down or dazed

Most people who have a concussion recover fully within a few weeks or months with proper treatment and rest. However, some people experience long-term effects, such as memory problems, difficulty sleeping, and changes in mood or behavior.

The Link Between Concussions and Depression

Depression is a mental health condition that causes feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a loss of interest in activities a person once enjoyed. While concussions are not a direct cause of depression, there is evidence to suggest that they may increase a person’s risk of developing depression.

In one study published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry, researchers followed 160 patients who had experienced a concussion. They found that 27 percent of the patients who had a concussion went on to develop depression within six months of the injury, compared to just 9 percent of patients who had other types of injuries. The researchers suggested that the physiological changes that occur in the brain after a concussion may make a person more vulnerable to depression.

Another study published in the Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation found that people with a history of concussions were more likely to report symptoms of depression than people without a history of concussions. The researchers suggested that the stress and trauma of the injury, as well as the long-term effects of the injury, could contribute to the development of depression.

It is important to note that not everyone who experiences a concussion will go on to develop depression. However, if you have suffered a concussion and are experiencing symptoms of depression, it is important to seek help from a healthcare professional.

Treating Concussion-Related Depression

If you are experiencing depression after a concussion, it is important to seek treatment as soon as possible. Your healthcare provider may recommend therapy, medication, or a combination of both to help manage your symptoms.

Therapy can be an effective treatment for depression after a concussion. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a common type of therapy used to treat depression. CBT helps patients identify negative thinking patterns and develop skills to change those patterns. This can help patients manage symptoms of depression and improve their overall well-being.

Medication can also be an effective treatment for depression after a concussion. Antidepressant medications can help regulate the chemicals in the brain that are responsible for mood. However, it is important to note that medication is not the only option for treating depression after a concussion, and it should only be used under the guidance of a healthcare provider.

In addition to therapy and medication, there are several lifestyle changes that can help manage symptoms of depression after a concussion. These include getting regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and avoiding alcohol and drugs.

Preventing Concussions

The best way to avoid concussion-related depression is to prevent concussions from occurring in the first place. While it is impossible to completely eliminate the risk of concussion, there are several steps you can take to reduce your risk of a head injury.

Wearing protective headgear can help reduce the risk of head injuries in sports and other activities. Helmets are essential for activities like biking, skateboarding, and skiing. Protective headgear is also available for sports like football, soccer, and hockey.

It is also important to practice safe driving habits and wear a seatbelt when driving or riding in a car. Simple precautions like installing handrails on stairs and putting nonslip mats in the bathtub can also reduce the risk of falls and head injuries.

Conclusion

While concussions are not a direct cause of depression, there is evidence to suggest that they may increase a person’s risk of developing depression. If you have experienced a concussion and are experiencing symptoms of depression, it is important to seek help from a healthcare professional. Therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes can all be effective treatments for depression after a concussion. Additionally, taking steps to prevent concussions can also help reduce the risk of concussion-related depression.

FAQs

FAQ 1: Can concussions really cause depression?

Yes, they can. Studies have shown that concussions can lead to changes in mood, behaviour, and personality, which can ultimately result in depression. It is also believed that the physical damage caused by a concussion to the brain can disrupt the chemical balance and functioning of the brain, leading to depressive symptoms.

FAQ 2: How long after a concussion can depression occur?

Depression symptoms can occur right after a concussion or may develop weeks, months, or even years later. It is not uncommon for individuals to experience a delayed onset of depression following a concussion, which is why it is important to monitor concussion symptoms and seek medical attention if symptoms persist or worsen.

FAQ 3: What are the common symptoms of depression following a concussion?

The symptoms of depression following a concussion can vary from person to person. Common symptoms include persistent sadness or empty mood, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, fatigue, changes in appetite or weight, sleep disturbances, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, difficulty concentrating, and thoughts of death or suicide. It is important to seek medical assistance if you or someone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms after a concussion.


References

1) Lippa SM, Fagnano CM. Depression after Traumatic Brain Injury: Review and Update. Am J Phys Med Rehabil. 2019;98(12):1095-1102. doi:10.1097/PHM.0000000000001293

2) Bakhos LL, Lockhart GR, Myers R, Linakis JG. Emergency department visits for concussion in young child athletes. Pediatrics. 2010;126(3):e550-e556. doi:10.1542/peds.2009-3106

3) Guskiewicz KM, Marshall SW, Bailes J, et al. Association between recurrent concussion and late-life cognitive impairment in retired professional football players. Neurosurgery. 2005;57(4):719-726. doi:10.1227/01.neu.0000175725.75780.d6