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Traumatic Brain Injury and Mental Health: What You Need to Know

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Brain injuries can occur to anyone at any time. There are multiple causes of brain injuries; from sports accidents and motor vehicle accidents to falls and strokes. No matter what the cause, many of the consequences of a traumatic brain injury (TBI) are much the same. The Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) sets aside one month each year to recognize TBI and bring awareness to this often devastating type of injury.

A traumatic brain injury is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as an injury that affects how the brain works. And according to the BIAA, there are upwards of 5.3 million American children and adults living with a permanent brain-injury-related impairment. That’s one in every 60 Americans.

BIAA is the voice of those living with brain injuries and leads the nation in the observance of National Brain Injury Awareness Month. The theme for 2021-2023 is More Than My Brain Injury. The aim of this important awareness campaign includes the following:

  • Increase the understanding about brain injuries
  • Reduce the stigma associated with brain injuries
  • Improve care and support for those injured and their families
  • Increase awareness of the diversity of injuries and community demographics

As mentioned the causes of a TBI can vary greatly as well as the effects. Although anyone can get a traumatic brain injury, research indicates that some people are more at risk to suffer greater negative and long-term consequences than others. 

Types of Traumatic Brain Injuries

There are three different types of traumatic brain injuries. These are: 

  • Mild TBI or concussion

Mild TBIs or concussions are the most common TBI to occur. Most times these TBIs are caused by a blow to the head or a significant jolt to the body in which the brain is moved back and forth or shaken. 

These types of injuries can cause the brain to twist or move in the skull. In addition, a mild TBI can cause chemical changes in the brain as well as damage to brain cells. When a mild TBI occurs there can be immediate and long-term results. The more times an individual has a mild TBI, the more likely they are to suffer long-term effects. 

  • Moderate TBI

A moderate or severe TBI can also be caused by a jolt, blow to the head or an injury that penetrates the brain such as a gunshot wound. For those who survive a moderate or severe TBI, there can be life-long disability and health problems. 

According to the CDC, 22% of people with a moderate or severe TBI died, 30% got worse over time, 22% remained the same, and 26% improved over time. 

  • Severe TBI

Severe TBIs can result from the same causes of moderate brain injury. Severe TBIs can often be debilitating and deadly. 

Symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injuries

When an individual sustains a blow to the head or a serious jolt, they may be immediately aware that they have a brain injury. However, in some circumstances, particularly with mild TBIs, they may not be aware at first. There are some signs and symptoms of brain injuries to watch for especially in the case of mild TBIs or concussions. 

Symptoms of Mild TBI

  • Headache
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Sleepiness or fatigue
  • Dizziness or issues with balance
  • Problems with speech
  • Sensitivity to lights or sounds
  • Blurred vision
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seeming dazed or confused
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Focusing issues
  • Sleep changes

It’s important to seek professional help if you think you or a loved one have sustained any type of brain injury. 

Symptoms of Moderate or Severe TBI

The symptoms of both mild and moderate/severe TBIs can be seen either immediately following the injury or several hours or days later. Here are some of the signs of a moderate or severe brain injury: 

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Moderate or severe headache that worsens
  • Convulsions or seizures
  •  Dilated pupils
  • Fluids coming from ears or nose
  • Ongoing vomiting or nausea
  • Unable to wake up
  • Numbness or weakness in fingers and toes
  • Coordination issue
  • Major confusion
  • Anger or irritability or aggressiveness
  • Slurred speech 
  • Coma

Causes of TBIs 

There are many different causes of TBIs. However, there are some that most commonly cause TBIs. Here are some of these:

  • Falls account for 47.9% of all TBIs in the United States
  • Being struck by an object account for 17.1%
  • Motor vehicle accidents attribute to 13.2%
  • Assaults account for 8.3%
  • Unknown causes account for 13.2%

The BIAA reports that there are 2.8 million new brain injuries each year from these causes mentioned. 

Certain people are more at risk for experiencing a TBI. These include:

  • Children between birth and four years old
  • Young adults between 15 and 24 years old
  • Older adults over the age of 60 years
  • Males in all age groups

There are certain groups that are more at risk for dying from a TBI and experiencing long-term health consequences. The following are some of the most at-risk groups:

  • Service members and veterans
  • Racial and ethnic minorities
  • Homeless individuals
  • Incarcerated individuals
  • Domestic violence survivors
  • Rural area residents

No matter what the cause, brain injuries can lead to long-term and sometimes permanent health consequences. One of the areas impacted by mild, moderate, and severe TBIs is a person’s mental health

According to research published in Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment psychiatric disorders following a TBI occur frequently. While these disorders can vary, there are certain mental health disorders that show up more often after a TBI. In addition, many of these issues last for years following the injury. This can be particularly true if the proper treatment isn’t received for both the TBI and mental health condition.

The National Institute of  Health (NIH) reports that one in five people who have sustained a TBI will have mental health disorder symptoms six months following a mild TBI. Some of the  most commonly found mental health disorders from a TBI are:

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Mood disorders

In addition to these disorders, problems with sleep, impulsivity, as well as issues with anger and aggression, are common in individuals who have sustained a TBI. While some individuals may not be diagnosed with a mental health disorder, they may still experience many of the symptoms and challenges associated with these issues. 

The individual’s mental health prior to the injury as well as the cause of the TBI impact the development of mental health issues. For example, an individual who suffered a TBI from an assault is more likely to develop PTSD than someone who suffered a TBI from a fall.

Treatment for Mental Health Disorders from Traumatic Brain Injury

The good news is that mental health disorders brought on by a TBI are treatable. Many of the same treatments used in mental health treatment also work in these cases. Evidence-based therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical-behavioral therapy (DBT) have been shown to be successful in helping individuals recover from mental health disorders. 

It’s important to note that as a number of TBIs are sustained through falls, alcohol use disorder is also associated with individuals with TBIs. Those individuals with a history of alcohol abuse were found to have increased incidences of ongoing mood disorders after the TBI. 

Seeking treatment for both a mental health disorder and any type of substance use disorder (SUD) including alcohol use disorder (AUD) after sustaining a TBI is vital to recovery. Research shows that getting treatment for both conditions—SUD, AUD, and another mental health disorder if they exist, is essential for improvement in both areas. 

At Futures Recovery Healthcare, we understand how TBI can impact a person’s life. We work closely with our nation’s military and first responders to deliver the specialized treatment these groups need for both mental health disorders and substance use disorders. Learn more about our Hero’s Ascent program

Additionally, Futures has a program housed separately entirely focused on the treatment of mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, and mood disorders. Learn more about our Mental Health program

If you or someone you love has a TBI or a SUD or AUD, Futures is here for you. Offering evidence-based programming to help build a solid foundation for life-long recovery, Futures is just a call away. Contact us online or call 866-804-2098.

CARE EXTENDED BEYOND OUR WALL

Experience lasting change and receive the support you need now and over the years to come.


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