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Mental Health

TBI Can Impair Mental Functioning, Lead to Poor Mental Health

— September 5, 2023

Traumatic brain injury studies emphasize the need for proper treatment to achieve the best possible outcomes.

Studies indicate traumatic brain injury (TBI) may increase mental health concerns and the risk of suicide while decreasing cognitive functioning. TBI is a serious health condition that occurs when the brain suffers a sudden and violent blow or jolt, leading to temporary or permanent damage. After experiencing this type of injury, it is often difficult for individuals to process information in the same way and many begin to struggle with adverse mental health effects.

One such study involving military veterans found participants are 21% more likely to commit suicide soon after their deployment. Another study showed TBI in military veterans may be an underlying reason for decreased cognitive functioning and substance abuse.

In a study of more than 860,000 individuals with a TBI over the span of 10 years, researchers also found anyone with a TBI has a greater risk of reporting mental health concerns, and professional services must be ready to guide them and assist them. This includes resources in the the areas of:

  • Medicine
  • Counseling
  • Neurology
  • Psychiatry
  • Rehabilitation
  • Substance/alcohol abuse specialists
TBI Can Impair Mental Functioning, Lead to Poor Mental Health
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

When professionals in these different areas work as a team to create a personalized treatment plan, the patient has the best possible outcome. Otherwise, there is the risk someone will fall through the cracks because they have unmet needs which aren’t being properly addressed. Further studies indicate the greatest risk of mental health concerns and suicidal thoughts occurs within the first year after a TBI and decreased functioning, and the access to supports during this time is most significant to achieving partial or full recovery.

Such details drive home the fact that early detection and intervention for both military vets and civilians after a TBI is very important to their physical and mental well-being. Ensuring these individuals have a detailed treatment plan and access to experts to assist them with their specific needs can reduce the risk of self-medicating with drugs and/or alcohol. It can also reduce the risk of suicide.

Each person with a TBI is affected differently due to their specific type of injury, its severity and other individualized variables, including existing social supports, their ability to earn an income and whether the individual is able to live alone. A TBI can limit a person’s physical abilities, leaving them frustrated and unable to complete basic tasks for themselves. This often increases their risk of experiencing anxiety and depression and means that they have to rely on others to ensure they’re accomplishing essential activities.

Many individuals find it hard to sleep well after an TBI, too, and they may find it harder to process information or remember details. The inability to focus for a length of time on something specific can feel overwhelming.

Proper screening and diagnosis to confirm a TBI is important. Comprehensive evaluations in addition to physical exams and testing are all part of this process.  A proper diagnosis and documentation of the symptoms can help someone with a TBI live the best life possible.


Effects of TBI

TBI Increases Mental Health Diagnoses, Time to Suicide

Rates and Predictors of Suicidal Ideation During the First Year After Traumatic Brain Injury

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