Depression After TBI or ABI

Posted on November 18, 2019

Traumatic brain injury is defined as an alteration in brain function or other evident brain pathology caused by an external force. The main causes of TBI include falls, assaults, road crashes, and car accidents, and sports injuries like concussions.

ABI is an injury to the brain that is not hereditary, congenital, degenerative or induced by birth trauma. Acquired brain injury usually occurs after birth due to factors such as stroke, aneurysm, tumor, near-drowning incidents, infectious disease that affects the brain (i.e.-meningitis), and due to lack of oxygen supply to the brain (i.e., heart attack).

Emotions after a brain injury

Usually, patients of severe TBI or ABI experience some degree of permanent impairment and life change. The sequelae of brain injuries span neurological, cognitive and personality/behavioral areas. This can have a negative impact on people’s lives affecting their occupation, relationship, and independent living.

Difficulty controlling emotions or “mood swings.”

Some people may seem to be on an “emotional roller coaster” in which they may experience mixed emotions, that is, happy one moment, sad next, and then angry. This may be due to damage to the part of the brain that controls emotions and behavior, and may or may not require any triggering factors.


People with brain injury may worry and become anxious for no particular reason. They may feel they make “too many” mistakes especially if they are criticized or fail at a task. They may experience panic attacks as the situation that caused the injury gets replayed in the person’s mind over and over, interfering with their ability to sleep (“post-traumatic stress disorder”).

Difficulty in reasoning and concentrating can make it hard for brain injury victims to solve problems. Situations that require information-processing and a lot of attention can make people with brain injury anxious. These may be crowded environments, heavy traffic or rush, sudden changes in plan, or even noisy children.


It is a state in which the person feels ‘low,’ ‘down,’ ‘negative’ and generally unhappy about themselves, the world and their future. Symptoms usually include sleep disturbance, appetite changes, and tiredness. A gradual decline in the ability to perform everyday tasks and face stressors reduced attention to physical appearance, withdrawal, and loss of interest in formerly enjoyed activities, thoughts of death or suicide.

Factors contributing to depression after TBI

Physical changes to the areas of the brain due to injury that control emotions. Change in the level of neurotransmitters, natural chemicals in the brain, can cause depression.

Emotional response to injury can lead to depression as the person struggles to adjust to temporary or lifelong disability that can cause losing a role within the family or society.

Some people may have a higher risk of depression due to inherited genes, family or personal history or other contributing factors like drug or alcohol abuse.

Fortunately, with help from family members and caregivers, depression can be cured. Mental health professionals can aid by administering antidepressants and psychotherapy or a combination of the two. Becoming involved with volunteer activities or attending support groups can help cope with depression. Apart from these, other approaches, such as aerobic exercises, acupuncture, and biofeedback, can also be helpful.