Can Traumatic Brain Injury Cause Mood Changes?
Larissa Orloff, MD, is a resident physician in Psychiatry at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center in Phoenix.
Question: My husband recently suffered a concussion. Since his injury, I’ve noticed his mood change. He has been sad at times, and anxious others. Could the mood change be a result of the traumatic brain injury? Should he see a counselor or get medication to control his mood?
Answer: A traumatic brain injury (TBI) may result from a sudden severe blow or penetrating wound to the head. A variety of behavioral syndromes may result such as mood disorders, anxiety, or changes in attention, memory, or personality. In the early phase of recovery from a TBI individuals may experience confusion, impaired memory, or agitation. For some, more chronic behavioral or cognitive changes may occur.
Regarding mood changes, experts recently published an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association estimating that almost half of individuals who sustain a TBI will likely develop an episode a major depression within the first year after injury. In addition, an individual with a TBI has an estimated risk of major depression eight times higher compared to the general population. Symptoms of major depression may include changes in mood, sleep, appetite, energy, concentration, interest, and anxiety.
Depending on the nature of the injury another important consideration is the development of a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is one of the most commonly known long-term consequences of experiencing or the witnessing of a traumatic event. The symptoms may include feelings of fear, distressing memories or nightmares, emotional detachment, decreased interest, avoidance, problems with sleep, irritability or outbursts of anger, problems concentrating, and feeling jumpy or easily startled.
For some people who experience a traumatic brain injury, they may be unaware of any changes in their behavior, mood, or cognition. Caregivers should contact or encourage the individual with the TBI to get help by calling their doctor. The symptoms you are observing may be related to depression or related to another chronic condition as a result of the TBI. With a thorough evaluation a mental health professional may be able to help through various types of medication or counseling.