Mental Disorders Caused by Traumatic Brain Injuries

February 25, 2022 | Attorney, Matthew Dolman
Mental Disorders Caused by Traumatic Brain Injuries

A Traumatic Brain Injury Can Result in a Mental Illness

The human brain is an intricate web of neurons that governs your every action. This fragile organ is protected by the thick bones of your skull which function as a shield. When this defense is penetrated, the consequences can be quite severe As the conversation surrounding mental health continues to mature, we have a growing understanding of the relationship between the potential development of mental illness and Traumatic Brain Injuries. In some cases, a traumatic brain injury (TBI) may contribute to or even cause the materialization of a mental disorder. This area of research continues to evolve, but the early consensus among researchers is that follow-up care following a TBI -even a mild one- is critical.

What is a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)?

A traumatic brain injury, also known as a TBI, is an umbrella term for different types of brain injuries; the basic criteria is that the brain suffers a “sudden, external, physical assault”. This can result in nerve damage, bleeding, bruising, and other harmful complications. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Traumatic Brain Injuries hospitalized 223,050 people in 2018; TBI's were ultimately responsible for about 166 deaths a day in the United States that year. That's roughly the equivalent of a 737 airplane going down every single day for a year.  

Symptoms of a Traumatic Brain Injury

Each TBI is unique, so not every symptom outlined below will be present in each case. Furthermore, a TBI can range in severity, so the duration and intensity of individual symptoms will likewise vary.  Most people may be familiar with the more common symptoms of TBI's, such as dizziness, headaches, blurry vision, irritability, and memory issues. Additional indicators of a TBI may include struggling to speak or hear, issues focusing and repeating statements, or changes in taste and smell.  Remember that these TBI signs may only persist for a short time, but it is best to be overly cautious and get any head injury checked out by a medical professional. There are also many situations where symptoms do not show right away. This is why you should always seek medical attention immediately following any severe head trauma regardless of how you feel. 

Types of Traumatic Brain Injuries

Traumatic brain injuries can vary greatly in how exactly they can affect a person in terms of the damage they inflict, their symptoms, etc. Traumatic brain injury as a term is applicable to numerous forms of head trauma that run the spectrum of milder concussions to diffuse axonal injuries. A TBI can be classified as a closed or penetrating brain injury; this refers to whether or not the skull's defenses were breached. A closed brain injury might look like the case of a shaken baby, while a penetrating brain injury would resemble a gunshot wound.   Traumatic Brain Injuries can be further broken down by the resulting internal damage. Primary damage refers to damage inflicted at the time of the incident, such as coup and contrecoup injuries, while secondary damage refers to complications like infections and bleeds that may occur after the fact. Damage can also be categorized by its location; was the injury localized in a singular spot, or were there multiple areas affected, creating potentially deadly diffuse damage

Common Causes of a Traumatic Brain Injury

A TBI can result from a slip-and-fall accident, attempted suicide, violent assault, or other types of accidents. This type of injury is most prevalent among those who struggle with coordination, like children and the elderly, and those who engage in risky behavior, typically teenagers and young adults. For example, in a drunk driving accident, a quick stop can forcefully jerk the brain back and forth, causing it to slam against the walls of the skull. A simple trip at work could cause you to hit your head on the corner of a desk, leaving you with a TBI. A penetrating head wound resulting from a fall down the stairs can prove particularly destructive.  Regardless of the original source of the trauma, the resulting damage may be minor or catastrophic. Unfortunately, it may also carry other implications for the long-term health of your brain.

Potential Mental Illnesses Associated with TBI's

It seems logical that a physical injury to the organ that houses your thoughts and feelings could result in a condition that creates unhealthy thoughts and feelings, but the truth is a bit more nuanced.  Researchers are still investigating the long-term impacts of TBI's on the human brain. Ethical and logistical restrictions prevent researchers from collecting large, unbiased data samples, but there is early evidence to suggest a causal relationship between TBI's and mental illnesses developed after the incident. However, mental illnesses do not occur in every, or even most, cases. Additionally, risk factors for TBI's, like race, sex, and recreational habits, can aggravate the chances of experiencing a TBI and may coincide with the risk factors associated with some mental disorders. Knowing that you may be at risk for developing a mental illness after a TBI can save you time, stress, and hopefully provide the opportunity to manage your condition.

Mood Disorders Occurring After a Traumatic Brain Injury

Mood disorders are a catch-all term for various types of bipolar disorders and depression. They are characterized by abnormal regulation of mood (in some cases, an inability to regulate mood), which creates problems in day-to-day life. The two most common mood disorders associated with brain injuries are major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder. After a TBI, survivors may be vulnerable to bipolar disorder, which is indicated when someone exhibits uncontrolled and intense mood swings, seemingly at the drop of a hat, that last for varying amounts of time. In 2020, 21 million adults in the U.S. were afflicted with a depressive episode. Major depressive disorder can present as a disinterest in activities that were formerly enjoyable, expressing feelings of despair, and low self-esteem. People with mood disorders can have a higher risk of suicide, which is why screening for mental health disorders after a TBI is a critical practice.

Anxiety Disorders Stemming from a Traumatic Brain Injury

Anxiety disorders take many forms, but the underlying basis for is a relentless worry or apprehension that is unwarranted or irrational.  After a traumatic brain injury, some people develop Generalized Anxiety Disorder, where they may experience excessive stress to the point that it interferes with their daily life, leaving them unable to function or straining to focus without undue anxiety. For some, this includes debilitating anxiety attacks. Some TBI survivors may also acquire Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), which involves engaging in repeated behaviors to satisfy an internal demand, often stemming from anxious thought with a limited or nonexistent basis in reality. OCD as a result of a TBI could look like obsessively ensuring that their car is maintained, overly strict adherence to traffic laws, and anxiety associated with driving or being a passenger.

Degenerative Brain Conditions Associated with Traumatic Brain Injuries

In recent years, the link between degenerative brain diseases and head injuries in sports has been gathering headlines. Degenerative diseases are those that essentially eat away at the brain over time, causing catastrophic damage to neurons and loss of function.  Repeated head trauma appears to induce degenerative brain diseases in some people; unfortunately, the science isn't able to anticipate outcomes for individuals yet.   Individuals recovering from a TBI should be regularly screened for degenerative diseases like Parkinson's, and dementia. Parkinson's effectively ruins fine motor skills and severely inhibits movement; dementia effectively destroys memory and critical thinking skills, as commonly seen in the form of Alzheimer's.

Mental Illness Resulting from the Trauma of a Traumatic Brain Injury

Keeping your brain healthy can be a delicate balance. Physical injuries can have mental consequences, and vice versa. However, in this case, a traumatic brain injury does not have a specific, direct causal effect on a person's mental health. In the development of the disorders described below, the TBI is essentially secondary to the events surrounding it.  Although many people might be quick to jump to the conclusion that a traumatic brain injury can result in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, evidence suggests that PTSD is not caused by the physical brain injury, but rather derived from the experience of the accident itself. It's not uncommon to have lasting emotional or mental distress in the aftermath of an accident, and in severe cases, this can manifest as PTSD. 

Substance Abuse as a Result of Traumatic Brain Injuries

It is also worth mentioning substance abuse, as a form of addiction, may be associated with the incident involving the TBI. If the TBI occurred under or produced certain circumstances, an individual might be inclined to lose normal inhibitions, abuse substances, and risk becoming chemically dependent. The potential consequences of an undiagnosed mental illness following a traumatic brain injury are too significant to ignore or leave up to chance.

Contact Dolman Law Group For Help With Your Traumatic Brain Injury Lawsuit

We understand that recovering from a TBI can be an exhausting and complicated process, but filing your claim doesn't need to be. If you're suffering from a mental illness as a result of a suspected or diagnosed TBI, you need a compassionate, qualified lawyer to stand up for you in court. Dolman Law Group has been assisting plaintiffs in Florida with personal injury claims seeking compensation for traumatic brain injuries for many years now. Our firm has a long record of successful litigation where our clients have gotten the settlements they need to pick up the pieces and get their life back on track. You can potentially get compensation for damages such as medical bills, lost wages, lost earning potential, pain and suffering, and more by taking legal action over your traumatic brain injury. Consider contacting Dolman Law Group today about your case and set up a free consultation with our lawyers to hear your case and help you determine the next step.   Call us any time at 727-451-6900 or send us an email on our contact us page.


Matthew Dolman

Personal Injury Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has successfully fought for more than 11,000 injured clients and acted as lead counsel in more than 1,000 lawsuits. Always on the cutting edge of personal injury law, Matt is actively engaged in complex legal matters, including Suboxone, AFFF, and Ozempic lawsuits.  Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

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