Depression after brain injury

Depression after brain injury

Pamela Law, Ph.D.

Depression is a common consequence and reaction to traumatic brain injury. Depression can affect both survivors of brain injury and family members. This tip card describes the signs of depression with tips on when and how to ask for help. Checklists for family members and survivors have practical advice on what to do and what not to do when dealing with depression.

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Full Description

The effects of depression can have wide ranging consequences for the survivor’s recovery and rehabilitation. It can affect the family’s ability to provide care and to function. This tip card explains how depression is different from “the blues” and why it is important to seek treatment. There is a checklist for survivors and family members to identify changes in patterns of behavior that is useful when talking with a physician, counselor or therapist.
Pages 8
Year Second edition, 2011


Pamela Law, Ph.D.

A psychotherapist and speech language pathologist in private practice in the Denver metro area of Colorado, Dr. Law has worked in brain injury rehabilitation since 1992. She holds master’s degrees in speech-language pathology and psychology and a doctorate in psychology. Her clinical interests are in grief and loss and cognitive rehabilitation therapy after brain injury.

She holds specialty credentials from the American Speech-Language Hearing Association, the American Psychotherapy Association, the American Academy for the Certification of Brain Injury Specialists, the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress, the American Academy of Grief Counseling, and the Grief Recovery ® Institute.


This tip card helps persons with brain injury and their families...

  • recognize symptoms of depression
  • know when and how to ask fo rhelp
  • located helpful resources

Signs of Depression

  • Facts about depression and brain injury
  • Depression can result in a person…

How to Help

  • Tips for what to DO…
  • Tips for what to avoid or WHAT NOT TO DO…

When Should I Seek Treatment?

National Resources


Signs of Depression

Brain injury is so sudden and unpredictable that it is a truly devastating experience for many individuals and their families. People often feel as if the rug has been ripped out from beneath them and they do not know how or when they will get their footing back.

It is not unusual for the individual who has been injured, or for family members, to feel depressed after such a traumatic experience.

Facts about depression and brain injury

  • People with brain injury are more likely to feel depressed than people without brain injury.
  • Some people feel depressed and anxious at the same time.
  • These feelings may occur right after the injury or they can surface months or even years later.
  • Some forms of depression only last for a short time, while other forms may last for a long time.
  • People who are aware of the losses and changes in their lives may be more likely to show signs of depression after a brain injury.
  • Everybody gets the blues now and then. This is normal. Depression is different. It is a more extensive reaction. The person has a low or depressed mood. There may be a marked lack of interest or pleasure in activities that the person normally enjoys. It is a sign of depression when these feelings are present most of the day, nearly every day, for at least two weeks

A person who is depressed may also show changes in at least four of the following patterns of behavior. Check the boxes that apply to you or your family member.

  • Major change in appetite (eating more or eating less)
  • Big weight loss not caused by deliberate dieting or a big weight gain
  • Lack of sleep or excessive sleep
  • Moving slower or faster than usual
  • Loss of energy, feeling fatigued
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt
  • Difficulty making decisions or reduced concentration

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