Can Concussions Cause Depression?

It should be no surprise that concussions are an injury that you want to avoid. While pretty much any injuries are something that you want to happen, concussions have to be up there as one of the most serious.

Can Concussions Cause Depression?

It’s not just a bonk on the head, and you go to sleep for a few minutes after all. It can cause tearing and bleeding of the brain, as it hits and is damaged by the skull frame that is supposed to protect it.

Something that you want to avoid, that’s for sure!

However, outside of the immediate injuries to the brain and other parts of the body, there are a whole host of other symptoms and issues that can be noticed after the accident, from memory loss to auditory and visual problems.

One of the most common issues that people seem to have after a concussion is a depressive episode or depressive mood. Are these two things correlated? And if they are, how?

That’s what we’re looking to answer in this guide. Here, we’ll go through what exactly a concussion is, what it entails, what the symptoms are, and, of course, if you can get depression from one.

What Happens During A Concussion?

So, before we start taking a look at the symptoms, we should probably first explain what exactly happens during a concussion. After all, while most people have a rough idea of what it is, they may not know the exact details that go into this serious condition.

Being a form of minor traumatic brain injury, concussions occur when the head or body receives a sudden violent jolt that causes the head to move incredibly quickly.

So quickly, that the brain inside the skull, which normally moves well with the body, cannot move fast enough with the motion of the head, forcing it to hit against the inside of the skull.

In many cases, this causes the skull to hit and tear the muscles and attach tissues between elements of the brain, causing a whole host of issues and symptoms (more on that later).

So, contrary to what some people may think, it isn’t just a large or strong knock to the head. There are a lot of dangerous elements that go into concussions, and what makes them so potentially dangerous?

Can You Get Depression After Concussions?

So, with that information out of the way, we can now get back to the main question: Can getting a concussion give you depression?

Well, unfortunately, you can. Statistics have shown that over half of people who get concussions will suffer from depression within 10 weeks of the initial injury. So, not only is it possible, but it’s also a very common occurrence.

There is evidence to suggest that. 

And the most frustrating aspect of this phenomenon is that it’s not fully understood. We just don’t know how or why someone may be more likely to suffer from depression after a blow to the head.

Why Can Concussions Cause Depressions?

However, while we are still not entirely sure what exactly causes depressive (see also: Can An IUD Cause Depression?)episodes after a concussion, doctors and health professionals do have a few theories as to why this is the case.

Can Concussions Cause Depression?

Behavioural Activation System

One of the strongest theories behind why concussions cause depression is that they mess with your body’s regular Behavioural Activation System (or BAS), and are effectively the emotional response explanation to depression after a concussion.

This system is effectively how the brain tries to regulate both impulsive controls, your overall interest in learning new information, and regulating your emotional state.

A Concussion can potentially throw your normal BAS out of the window, seriously affecting your brain’s ability to regulate certain emotional responses or lack thereof.

And the longer that it takes a person to recover from a concussion, the more difficult it will be to help a person’s BAS readjust to a normal rhythm or cycle.

Hormone Deregulation

Another likely theory behind depression caused by concussions is the disruption that it can cause to the hormone regulation centres of the brain.

The brain is responsible for sending signals to both the rest of the body and itself, mainly controlled by both your hypothalamus and pituitary glands.

If either of these regions is damaged in a concussion, there is a very likely chance that their ability to help regulate vital hormones for lifting your mood like serotonin and dopamine, alongside ruining other important aspects of your recovery, such as sleep cycles, and your immune system.

Other Symptoms Of Concussions

Aside from depression, there are several other symptoms of concussions that can be just as troubling as depression.

Headaches before during and after concussions are very common.

Changes in behaviour besides depression are also quite common, with greater irritability and being easily distracted being some of the most common.

Generally feeling more drowsy when awake, even if you are otherwise well-rested.

Loss of consciousness, even if it is for only a few moments.

Difficulty reading writing like you used to.

Ways To Treat Concussions

Treating concussions is a tricky issue, as the difficulty to determine the cause of depression via headache also makes it difficult to find an easy fix.

Generally speaking, being prescribed anti-inflammatory medication by a health professional seems to be the best strategy that we can use currently if the mood change is due to inflammation of the brain.

Ways To Prevent Concussions

Generally speaking, the best way to prevent depression from concussion from happening, is to lower the risk of getting a concussion in the first place.

Making sure that you avoid unnecessary risks that could cause a head injury, such as removing hazards from your home, and always staying secure when performing physical activities, are some simple steps that you can take towards avoiding getting concussed and depressed.

Final Notes

So, to round out our guide, it’s clear that there is a link between getting a concussion and developing depression after the injury. And, as we’ve seen, treating that depression can be an issue at times.

So, make sure that you’re avoiding unnecessary risks, and managing the risks that could make you get a concussion in the first place.

Clare McAfee
Latest posts by Clare McAfee (see all)
Scroll to Top