Tuesday, March 14, 2017
Traumatic Brain Injury and Schizophrenia
When a person suffers a traumatic brain injury (TBI), they may experience emotional side effects in addition to physical side effects. This is an unfortunate but real result of head injury. Victims may experience mood swings, anxiety, depression, or other emotional issues. In the last decade, researchers have found that there may even be a link between TBI and schizophrenia.
This article will explore these four potential symptoms as well as the possible cause of psychological problems after suffering a TBI.
After a patient suffers a head injury from a car accident or some other trauma, they may experience rapid changes in temperament, known more commonly as mood swings. Some patients experience these emotions in intense, short bouts, often lasting for only a small amount of time. Other patients may experience mood swings, but the emotional change stays with them for longer periods of time. This is often described by victims of TBI as being “on an emotional roller coaster” as they switch between feelings of sadness, happiness, and anger, all within a short time period.
Mood swings are common after a TBI because head injuries often damage the part of the brain that is responsible for controlling emotions and behavior. If this area is damaged, it is easy to see how it may adversely affect a person’s mood.
As damage to the emotional control center of the brain can cause mood swings, damage to other areas may cause similar unpredictable behavior. For example, a TBI patient may experience random bouts of crying or laughing without the accompanying emotions if the areas of the brain that control these responses are damaged.
Patients who experience mood swings after a severe head injury can often expect the symptoms to recede over time. As the brain heals, the affected areas of the brain will return to normal. If the problem persists, doctors can prescribe mood stabilizers and other psychotropic medications to help.
Anxiety is another common psychological side effect of TBI. Like generalized anxiety, anxiety from a TBI is characterized by a feeling of fear or nervousness that does not match the situation at hand. This may mean that a person feels more worried than they should about an event, has more fear about a future event than the situation warrants, or fear and worry for no obvious reason.
Anxiety brought on by a TBI may be a result of physical damage to the brain tissue, causing neurological problems, or may be related to fear from the event itself. It is possible that the traumatic incident that caused the TBI is what’s causing the anxiety. This may take the form of the TBI patient playing the incident over and over in their mind, which can cause panic attacks, interfere with sleep, or create generalized anxiety.
TBI-related anxiety is often linked with other known injury-induced psychological problem, such as difficulty thinking, concentrating, and solving problems. It is thought that perhaps these inabilities lead to a state of feeling overwhelmed, which then causes anxiety.
Anxiety can be treated in a multitude of different ways. Patients may find relief in certain medications, through counseling, or more likely, through a combination of the two.
After suffering any type of severe injury, it is normal to have feeling of sadness and loss. After a severe head injury, this is just as normal, if not more common. Often, this feeling of sadness sets in toward the later stages of recovery as the person begins to realize what kind of long-term disabilities they will now be living with. However, if this feeling is more than just a general feeling of loss and disappointment, it may be depression.
Symptoms of clinical depression usually are more severe and longer lasting than post-injury sadness. These symptoms include feeling sad or worthless, sleeping much more than usual or not sleeping at all, loss of appetite, trouble concentrating, loss of interest in people, things, and activities you once found important, lethargy, or thoughts of suicide.
Like TBI-related anxiety, depression may be a result of circumstances surrounding the injury or from actual damage to areas of the brain that control emotions. This can be from physical damage to the brain tissue or from changes in biochemistry caused by damage.
Again, a combination of medications and counseling is often most effective in treating depression. If possible, find a psychiatrist who is familiar with depression linked to TBI.
Can TBI Cause Schizophrenia?
Recent findings have suggested a link does exist between TBI and schizophrenia, but this doesn’t prove that head or brain injuries cause schizophrenia. Instead, it may be more likely that patients who’ve suffered a head trauma were already developing the psychiatric condition associated with schizophrenia. Had the head injury not occurred, they may or may not have continued to develop the disorder.
What is Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a psychotic disorder that affects behavior, mood, and thinking. Although there is an array of symptoms associated with the disorder, the most widely known symptoms are auditory hallucination (hearing voices) and visual hallucination (seeing things that aren’t there).
Traumatic Head Injury and Schizophrenia
Traumatic brain injuries are a result from blow, jolt, or penetration to the head. This may be caused by something hitting someone in the head or the head hitting something, like a head hitting a steering wheel; when the head jerks forward, like in whiplash; or when something penetrates the skull and enters the brain. Symptoms of TBI can be minor, such as a mild concussion, or more severe, like permanent mental disability.
It is well known that TBI is linked to some types of psychiatric disorders, but the link between schizophrenia and TBI are just now being investigated.
Researchers at the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin recently compiled a meta-analysis of nine different studies to study the connection between the two medical issues. What they found is a definite association between TBI and an increased risk of schizophrenia.
The meta-analysis showed that people who suffer a traumatic brain injury are 1.6 times more likely to develop schizophrenia compared with those who have not suffered a head injury. People who incur a TBI who also have a relative with schizophrenia are 2.8 times more likely to develop the condition than those who don’t suffer a head injury.
The research found that a brain injury can disrupt and tear neural connections. They concluded that this may be the trigger that causes those patients with a predisposition to the illness to develop the condition. An injury may disrupt things in the brain enough to allow the illness to break through, whereas the brain, if not injured, may have found a way to avoid or compensate for the illness and its symptoms.
It is also possible that those who are predisposed to schizophrenia are also more prone to accidents, causing them to incur TBIs more often. For example, daydreaming or a lapse in concentration may make them more susceptible to accidents and injuries that can cause TBI. Research on the topic is still developing, but if a causation between TBI and schizophrenia is found, it could be a major breakthrough in both fields of cognitive science and mental illness.
Dolman Law Group
If your loved one has suffered a head injury due to someone else’s negligence, contact an experienced Clearwater brain injury attorney. At the Dolman Law Group, our team of experienced brain injury lawyers are ready to fight for your recovery and help you obtain the compensation you deserve. Call our Clearwater office at 727-451-6900 or email us for a free case evaluation.