Anxiety and Traumatic Brain Injury

Stephen M. Smith
Last Updated:
December 2, 2019

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) often causes many ongoing problems for the sufferer. Anxiety and TBI often go hand in hand. Emotional changes like anxiety, depression, and mood swings are very common after a TBI. These types of alterations can cause major disruptions in the life and family of an accident victim.

The brain and nervous system are very complicated, and even a minor TBI can lead to dramatic shifts in a person’s emotions and personality. The symptoms you are likely to experience after sustaining a traumatic brain injury depend on the nature of the injury and which part of the brain was damaged.

People who suffer a TBI do not always realize they sustained brain damage. The nature of the injury may not initially show up on tests. This is part of the reason TBI is called “The Silent Injury.” However, subtle changes in mood and behavior can indicate a TBI. This is why it’s important to obtain follow-up treatment after any type of suspected brain injury.

Can a Brain Injury Cause Anxiety?

A common question is, “Can a brain injury cause anxiety?” Although the symptoms of many TBIs clear up, research has pointed to psychiatric and emotional disorders reoccurring years after the initial blow.

A report in The Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation studied people with TBIs more than five years after they sustained their injuries. As many as 38% of the sample reported anxiety five years after the injury. Depression was the most common symptom, affecting 45% of the sample. The researchers found a high incidence of psychiatric disorders in the sample 5.5 years after the initial injury.

Anxiety and traumatic brain injury often occur together. There are plenty of overlapping symptoms that can make life harder for a TBI sufferer. These include:

  • Confused thoughts
  • Extreme lows or highs in moods
  • Excessive worry or fear
  • Drastic changes in eating or sleeping patterns
  • Social withdrawal
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Feeling unable to cope with daily tasks or responsibilities
  • Alcohol or drug abuse

Many people with traumatic brain injuries also experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and anxiety.

There are often difficulties involved in detecting brain injuries or concussions, as they often don’t appear on scans or x-rays. Because of this, you should seek immediate medical attention and thorough follow-up examinations if you’ve been in any type of accident where you sustained a blow to your head. These types of accidents can include:

Regardless of the cause of the TBI, the resulting anxiety can present various hardships and difficulties for the victim.

Challenges Caused By TBI-Related Anxiety

Extreme anxiety is very serious. It can cripple your life and make it hard to function. Brain injury victims often struggle with daily tasks, and anxiety conditions can complicate matters even further. They can feel overwhelmed, especially when too much is asked of them.

Anxiety is not only emotionally crippling — it can impact your physical health as well. The American Psychological Association (APA) states that along with feelings of tension and worried thoughts, sufferers often experience physical changes like elevated blood pressure.

Anxiety resulting from TBI can interfere with a person’s:

  • Ability to perform everyday tasks
  • Enjoyment of recreational activities and hobbies
  • Work output, productivity, and quality
  • Social interactions with friends and loved ones
  • Overall sense of well-being and capability
Anxious middle aged-man sitting on couch and thinking

Coping with Anxiety as a TBI Victim

Anxiety can be a challenge that TBI victims must deal with over long stretches of time. Professional medical and psychiatric treatment is often necessary. Initial medical treatment after a brain injury is extremely important, as are regular follow-ups after the accident. This is highly recommended even if the victim is not experiencing any immediate changes or symptoms.

To help deal with anxiety and other similar issues, TBI sufferers are encouraged to:

  • Act as soon as possible to get the help needed
  • Avoid high-stress situations, such as those involving large crowds or loud children
  • Ask for accommodations if in a stressful job
  • Make lists and break tasks down into smaller, manageable portions
  • Pace themselves when approaching new activities or situations
  • Look for hobbies and pastimes that are calming
  • Seek regular follow-ups, counseling, and therapy
  • Be open to help from family members and friends

Anxiety can be treated through courses of psychotherapy by a trained professional and drugs.  A study found that TBI was linked to a high risk for developing psychiatric disorders. It also showed that post-TBI rehabilitation significantly reduced the risk of psychiatric disorders in a dose-dependent manner.

As you may expect, medical treatment and rehabilitation for both TBI and anxiety can be costly. Filing legal action can help the victim obtain compensation, which will alleviate the financial burdens caused by the accident.

Obtaining Relief for The “Silent Injury”

TBI and anxiety often go untreated. This is because symptoms may not be immediately apparent and because the victim may often not want to speak up about the changes in mood or cognition they are experiencing. They may be embarrassed or hesitant about discussing it, or they might fail to see a connection between the changes in their personality and the brain injury they previously sustained.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America states that as many as 40 million people in the United States suffer from an anxiety disorder. However, only 36.9% of them receive treatment.

If you or a loved one have been affected by TBI, anxiety, and other resulting conditions, you should reach out for assistance as soon as possible. Seeking regular medical treatment is recommended, and contacting a lawyer can help ease any concerns you may have regarding any legal issues.

The damages award from a lawsuit can help to cover:

  • Medical expenses from the TBI accident
  • Follow-up therapy and rehabilitation
  • Psychological counseling and evaluation
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of the ability to generate income
  • Pain and suffering

Symptoms can progress over time or appear much later after an accident. The best thing you can do is to take initiative and obtain help for your condition and injuries, even if you don’t necessarily feel any symptoms.

Can You Make a Claim for Anxiety and Traumatic Brain Injury in Virginia?

People who suffer a brain injury through the fault of another, be it a driver, a business owner, an employer, or another party should consider filing a lawsuit. Anxiety can affect your quality of life. A claim can be made for the long-term physical and psychological impacts of a brain injury under the pain and suffering category.

At the Smith Law Center, our attorneys have been litigating brain injury cases before the issue was widely known about and Stephen Smith is an international expert on the topic. His work on traumatic brain injury has done much for the movement to shed light on “the silent injury.” Contact us at (757) 703-4891 for a free, no-obligation consultation to determine your next steps.

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