Depression and Anxiety

It is common for people to become depressed after they experience physical changes in the brain, such as from a traumatic brain injury. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between the symptoms of depression and the effects of TBI. 

A person with a TBI may be persistently sad, anxious, feelings of hopelessness or guilt, worthlessness, irritability, slowed thinking or movement, anger and restlessness. There may also be a loss of interest in activities and hobbies that were once pleasurable, fatigue and decreased energy, problems concentrating, and in some cases, thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts. If you have thoughts of suicide - reach out to someone you trust or call 988 the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.

Depression can also be associated with emotional or psychological fatigue. This time of fatigue gets worse with stress. Sleep may not help at all, and the fatigue is often its worst when you first wake up in the morning. Depression could be clinical or situational. Both are real and can present significant challenges. 

Clinical Depression 

  • A more severe form of depression that interferes with daily functioning 
  • Also called Major Depressive Disorder or a mood disorder 
  • Stems from changes in your brain chemical, caused by genetics, major life effects, substance dependence 
  • Diagnosed by a mental health professional and can be treated with therapy and/or medication

Situational Depression 

  • Short-term depression as a result of a traumatic event or a change in life 
  • Also called Adjustment Disorder 
  • Stems from a struggle to come to terms with dramatic life changes such as divorce, loss of job, going to prison, death of a close friend or loved one, serious accident, retirement or other major life changes

Depression symptoms can include: 

  • Listlessness 
  • Sleeping difficulties 
  • Unfocused anxiety and worry 
  • Withdrawal from normal activities or friends 
  • Depressed mood or constant irritability 
  • Decrease or increase in appetite 
  • Difficulty making decisions 
  • Feelings of hopelessness or sadness 
  • Frequent episodes of crying 
  • Loss of concentration 
  • Suicidal thoughts 
  • Significant weight loss or gain 
  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness 
  • Loss of energy


Anxiety often goes hand-in-hand with depression. A person with anxiety may experience:  

  • physical tension 
  • excessive worry 
  • racing thoughts 
  • jumpiness 
  • irritability 
  • restlessness 
  • racing heart rate 
  • dry mouth 
  • excessive sweating 
  • shakiness 
  • shortness of breath 
  • feelings of panic 
  • a sense that something bad is going to happen 

Situations with too many demands or time pressure can heighten anxiety as well as situations that require a lot of attention and information-processing.

Depression and anxiety after a traumatic brain injury are not a sign of weakness and it is not your fault. These are symptoms of illness related to the damage of your brain. Wishing them to go away, using more willpower, or ‘toughening up’ are NOT effective coping strategies. 

Places to seek help during a crisis, emotional support, referrals, and resources: 

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