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All Abstracts

First Large Study

Individuals with Moderate and Severe Traumatic Brain Injury Appear to be at High Risk for Depression

Categories: Violence-Related Traumatic Brain Injury

The Question

What are the causes, symptoms, and number of people who experience depression after traumatic brain injury?

Past Studies

Past Studies that have analyzed emotional function after traumatic brain injury indicate depression is a serious clinical concern. Depression is a real medical condition that can be treated. Depression is not a “normal part” of every day life. Persons with depression report that they continually feel sad, irritable, tired, and uninterested in activities that they used to find enjoyable. Other common symptoms of depression include having difficulty getting a good night’s sleep, moving the body at a much slower pace, and not being able to remember things or concentrate as easily as before. Researchers have not found consistent information about the causes, symptoms, and number of people who experience depression after traumatic brain injury.

This Study

This Study examined 666 persons with primarily moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries 10 to 126 months after their injury date. This is the first study to examine depression that focused on a large diverse population from the 17 Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems facilities throughout the country.In this study, individuals with traumatic brain injury appeared to have a high risk for developing symptoms of depression. The most common symptoms of depression reported were: feeling exhausted- 29%, poor attention span or inability to concentrate- 28%, anger or irritability- 28%, and thinking about the same thing over and over again or the inability to get their mind off of certain thoughts- 25%. Twenty-seven percent of the participants were diagnosed with major depressive disorder. Major depressive disorder is characterized by many symptoms of depression, but the symptoms are more intense or severe. Individuals with depression most often had low incomes, no jobs, and were members of ethnic minority groups. It appeared that the severity of the brain injury, how long it had been since the injury occurred, and marital status after injury were not important risk factors for developing depression. 

Who May Be Affected By These Findings

Persons with traumatic brain injury, their family and friends, health care providers, health care funders, and researchers

Caveats

Participants in this study experienced mostly moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries. It is not known if persons with mild traumatic brain injury would have the same experiences with depression as these participants. This study did not include individuals who were unable to communicate responses required for the tests. These studies took place in urban areas and may not be reflective of rural or suburban populations.

Bottom Line

The researchers found that individuals with traumatic brain injuries are at high risk for developing symptoms of depression. The most common symptoms of depression experienced were feeling exhausted, poor attention span or concentration, anger or irritability, and the inability to get their mind off of certain thoughts (i.e. they kept thinking about the same thing over and over again). Twenty-seven percent of the participants were diagnosed with major depression. In this study, the individuals with depression were more likely to be minorities, unemployed, and receiving low incomes. Future research should develop depression screening tools and treatment interventions for persons with traumatic brain injuries.

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Find This Study

Seel, R. T.; Kreutzer, J. S.; Rosenthal, M.; Hammond, F. M.; Corrigan, J.; & Black, K. (2003). Depression after traumatic brain injury: A National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research Model Systems multicenter investigation. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, (84), 177-184.

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