Because the brain helps regulate many of our daily functions and body systems to survive, many things in your life may change after a head injury. Memory and reaction time is compromised but other behavioral functions can be affected as well such as social isolation or lack of motivation. Commonly overlooked is the psychological aspect that can be affected by mTBI such as personality changes, loss of inhibition, and even mental illness such as depressive and anxiety disorders. Research that evaluates the extent of mTBI’s vary in the assessment of cognition (such as memory, speed, or reaction time), psychological factors (such as PTSD, depression, anxiety, or suicidal ideation), physical factors (such as headaches, dizziness, gait, or balance), extent of injury (such as severity or location of the brain), and demographic or psychosocial factors (such as gender, age, SES, and past conditions). Overall, symptoms from brain injuries are complex and may appear as mental disorders, causing confusion among mental health professionals.
The DSM-5 (2013) states that TBI can result in bipolar disorder, depressive disorders, dissociative amnesia, hoarding disorder, neurocognitive disorders, neurodevelopmental disorders, psychotic disorders, and stress related disorders. The DSM-5 outlines the associated features of TBI may be accompanied by disturbances in:
Emotional function (e.g., irritability, easy frustration, tension and anxiety, affective lability); personality changes (e.g., disinhibition, apathy, suspiciousness, aggression); [and] physical disturbances (e.g. headache, fatigue, sleep disorders, vertigo or dizziness, tinnitus or hyperacusis, photosensitivity, anomia, reduced tolerance to psychotropic medications) (p. 625).
Equally important to note, these symptoms can decrease the quality of life for those suffering from mTBI. In the previously mentioned statewide study presented by Whiteneck et al. (2016), residents were also questioned about the impact their TBI’s had on their daily activities and quality of life by using the CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and the 5-item Diener Satisfaction with Life Scale. Results from this study showed that mTBI’s affect the victim’s daily activities by 79% to 179% and result in a low satisfaction of life by 78% to 111% when compared to those who do not have this injury. Additionally, mTBI has been found to increase the risk of suicidal ideation by 6.3% just three months following the injury and 8.2% six months following their injury. With just 3% of the general population contemplating suicide, mTBI can double or nearly triple suicidal ideation (Bethune, da Costa, van Niftrik, & Feinstein, 2016). For mental health professionals, this means paying close attention to their clients who suffer from mTBI in knowing they are at a higher risk for suicidal tendencies even after the traditional recovery period for mTBI. While it may seem that the patient has recovered from the cognitive deficits presented by the injury, more emotional factors can linger on.
Bethune, A., da, C. L., van, N. C. H. B., & Feinstein, A. (2016). Suicidal Ideation After Mild Traumatic Brain Injury: A Consecutive Canadian Sample. Archives of Suicide Research, 1-11. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13811118.2016.1199990
Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-5. 5th ed. (2013). Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association.
Whiteneck, G. G., Cuthbert, J. P., Corrigan, J. D., & Bogner, J. A. (2016). Prevalence of self-reported lifetime history of traumatic brain injury and associated disability: A statewide population-based survey. Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation, 31(1). doi:10.1097/HTR.0000000000000140