Many service members who sustain a concussion also cope with depression. There is a distinct connection between depression and traumatic brain injury (TBI). In fact, depression diagnoses increase after a brain injury.
“Sometimes the challenge is [that] post-concussive syndrome can sound the same as depression,” said Kelvin Lim, principal investigator for the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center location at the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Health Care System. “It is important to be aware of overlap between the two.”
TBI and Depression
Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center research found that depression can strongly influence post-concussion symptoms following a concussion. The study shows that patients who are diagnosed with both a concussion and depression report more severe symptoms than patients with only a concussion.
Asking the right questions can help providers prescribe the right treatment. Through targeted questioning a provider can distinguish if the patient’s post-concussive symptoms are similar to depression, or if the patient is experiencing co-occurring conditions. The right questions can lead to the right diagnosis. The right diagnosis leads to the right treatment.
Service Member Seeks Treatment
Air Force Master Sgt. Daniel Waugh noticed some things about himself right away after his TBI, including depression. Before the injury, he enjoyed hunting, fishing, working out and spending time with friends and family. All of that changed after his brain injury.
“I found myself not wanting to do things I enjoyed prior,” Waugh said.
Treatment helped Waugh recover. At first, Waugh said he wasn’t sure where to turn for treatment. He was skeptical about medicines until he gave them a chance and found that they worked. He also gave therapy a try.
“I started seeing mental health (providers),” he said. “It helped immensely to get things off my chest and out of my mind, and to get a fresh outlook at things.”
Both concussion and depression are treatable conditions. Lim stressed that staying engaged in treatment, and with a provider, is vital to successful treatment of TBI and depression. It is also important to remember that treatment may look different for each patient.
“Affective use of different types of therapies (is helpful). In many cases different treatments are combined,” Lin said. “As we know, no two people are the same.”