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- Winter 2013
Depression and Brain Injury
based on "Depression in the Individual with Brain Injury" by Shannon S. Voor, Ph.D.
Many times, individuals with a brain injury experience depression. One may notice feelings of sadness, crying episodes, changes in appetite, sleep disturbance, disinterest in pleasurable activities, hopelessness, poor self esteem, withdrawing, less sexual desire, "tiredness," and difficulty with making decisions or concentrating, and possibly, even thoughts of suicide. Yet, many of these symptoms may not be depression, but a result of the brain injury itself. If this is the case, it is important to get a thorough evaluation.
As time passes, and a person with brain injury begins to realize the impact of his or her injury, the possibility of becoming depressed increases. There are so many changes in this person's life that it seems overwhelming at times. The individual must also face social stigmas experienced by persons with disabilities. A brain injury generally limits one's independence and creates new financial limitations and pressures. If the individual is unable to find meaningful work, or is permanently disabled, then self-worth may suffer.
Is There Anything We Can Do?
There is help during these times of depression. Medications may be needed but must be closely monitored. Often, because of the changes in patients as they progress through different stages of recovery, there is a need for changes in medications. Psychotherapy can also help in coping with and adjusting to the dramatic changes that have occurred.
Group therapy, and support groups, are very helpful. The group is a good place to share common experiences and receive feedback. Family therapy may be important for resolving family tensions that may arise from changes in relationships and lifestyle.
Treatment of a person with a brain injury for depression is a complex and evolving process. It is important to work with professionals who are skilled in treating patients with a brain injury. A vital component in preparing for "the long road ahead" is an informed and involved family and circle of friends. Ultimately, the person with the brain injury is at the center of this circle and plays the most important role in this lifelong process.
Source: 1996 Resource Journal