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By On January 31st, 2019

1 in 5 experience symptoms of PTSD and Major Depressive Disorder after mild TBI

Image Source: Peter Hellberg/Flickr

A new study helps bring the link between concussions and mental health issues into clear light, as it reveals that approximately 1-in-5 people with concussions also experience significant mental health symptoms after a mild traumatic brain injury.

Not only did the team of researchers from the University of California San Diego identify just how often these mental health issues occur after brain injury, but they also pinpointed several risk factors that may increase the risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder or clinical depression within six months of the injury.

“Mental health disorders after concussion have been studied primarily in military populations, and not much is known about these outcomes in civilians,” said Patrick Bellgowan, Ph.D., program director at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). “These results may help guide follow-up care and suggest that doctors may need to pay particular attention to the mental state of patients many months after injury.”

The NINDS is a part of the National Institutes of Health, who helped support the study which was published in the latest edition of JAMA Psychiatry.

In the study, the team of researchers at UC San Diego – led by professor Murray B. Stein, M.D., M.P.H. – analyzed the mental health records of 1,155 people who had been treated in an emergency department for a diagnosed mild TBI.

Additionally, the patients were asked to complete questionnaires about symptoms for PTSD and major depressive disorder at three, six, and 12 months after their injury.

To provide a comparison, the researchers also assessed a group of patients with orthopedic injuries such as broken bones and who did not have a record of head injury.

Based on their responses, the group with a head injury were more likely to report symptoms of both PTSD and major depressive disorder at both three and six months after their injury. For example, at three months after injury, 20% of those with head injuries reported mental health symptoms while only 8.7% of the orthopedic injury group reported similar issues.

From there, the researchers reviewed the data to identify specific risk factors for PTSD or major depressive disorder after a brain injury.

According to the data, those with lower levels of education, African-Americans, and those with a history of mental illness were at particularly high risk. The report also indicates that head injuries caused by traumatic events such as an assault or violent attack increased the risk of developing PTSD, but not major depressive disorder.

“Contrary to common assumptions, mild head injuries can cause long-term effects. These findings suggest that follow-up care after head injury, even for mild cases, is crucial, especially for patients showing risk factors for PTSD or depression,” said Dr. Stein.

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