How a Brain Injury can Affect Mental Health

The brain is the most important organ in the body, responsible for controlling all of the body’s physical and mental processes. When the brain is injured, it can have wide-ranging effects. Many of these effects are physical, but an even larger portion of them are mental and emotional. In fact, researchers have found a significant link between head trauma and the subsequent risk of developing mental disorders. Scientists in Denmark have found that head injuries can actually increase the risk of developing a mental disorder by up to 439%.

Below, we’ll take a look at some of the most common mental health problems associated with brain injuries and how they can be treated.

Mood Swings

Causes and Symptoms – Mood swings, also known as “emotional lability,” occur when a person who suffers from them experiences emotions very quickly but with very little lasting effect. For example, they may get very angry very easily but quickly get over it. Emotional liability is caused by damage to the part of the brain that controls emotions and behavior. Often, there is no specific event that triggers a sudden emotional response, and the expression or outburst many have no relationship to the way the person actually feels. This is because the brain injury can cause sudden emotional episodes on its own without the person actually feeling the emotion. For example, they may cry when they are not actually sad or laugh when they are not actually happy. Because the person cannot control their expressions of emotion, the emotion displayed may be inappropriate for the situation–such as laughing at a sad story.

Treatment – Mood swings often improve within the first months after injury for most types of brain injuries, and the sufferer returns to a more normal emotional balance. Until the situation improves, there are several medications available to help stabilize or control mood swings. The sufferer should also talk to a physician or psychologist to help manage the condition.


Causes and Symptoms – Anxiety is a feeling of fear or nervousness that is out of proportion to the situation. It is most often experienced as a sense of danger when there is no threat present or a general sense of impending doom with no rational basis. Often, feelings of anxiety arise when the person relives the event that caused the brain injury, especially if that event was violent, such as a car crash or physical abuse. Very severe anxiety can also lead to panic disorder or even post-traumatic stress disorder, depending on the level of trauma involved with the injury. Anxiety often arises when there are too many demands placed on the sufferer, such as returning to work or school too soon after an injury. It can also arise when the sufferer is placed into situations that require a lot of attention and information-processing, such as crowded environments, heavy traffic, or dealing with noisy children.

Treatment – Anxiety is a very common result of brain injuries and there are many ways to treat it. Psychotherapy and medication have a proven record of success, but there are also other ways to treat anxiety. Many experts recommend that the person who suffers from anxiety should engage in structured daily activists, such as exercising, volunteering, church activities, or attending self-help groups. Most importantly, the sufferer should try to reduce the environmental demands and unnecessary stress that may be causing the anxiety.


Causes and Symptoms – Depression associated with brain injuries can be caused in two ways: First, it can be the result of an injury to the part of the brain that controls emotions, or second, it can set in during recovery when the sufferer struggles to adjust to his or her new disability. Because symptoms of depression can be a symptom of a brain injury itself, merely displaying symptoms of depression does not mean the sufferer is actually depressed. The symptoms more likely indicate depression if they show up a few weeks or months after the injury than immediately after it. It most often manifests as a feeling of being “down in the dumps,” with more specific symptoms including feelings of sadness or worthlessness, changes in sleep or appetite, difficulty concentrating, withdrawing from others, loss of interest in things that used to bring the suffer pleasure, lethargy, and thoughts of death or suicide.

Treatment – Depression is often treated together with anxiety through medication and psychotherapy. The sufferer should also engage in aerobic exercise and structured activities each day. In cases of severe depression, it is important to seek treatment as soon as possible to avoid its more dangerous symptoms, such as suicidal thoughts.

Temper Outbursts

Causes and Symptoms Irritability and sudden outbursts are very common after brain injuries, with some studies suggesting that up to 71% of brain injury patients suffer from them. Temper outbursts include such behavior as yelling, using bad language, throwing things, slamming fists into things, slamming doors, or threatening to hurt others. These types of temper outbursts can be caused by several factors, including:

  • Injury to the part of the brain that controls emotional expression
  • Frustration with the changes to the sufferer’s life brought about by the injury
  • Feelings of isolation, depression, or being misunderstood
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering things, expressing oneself, or following conversations
  • Other mental disorders, such as depression or anxiety

Physical pain caused by the injury

TreatmentReducing stress and irritating situations is key to preventing temper outbursts in brain injury patients. A psychologist may also be able to help the sufferer learn basic anger management skills such as self-calming strategies, relaxation, and better communication methods. As with other mental conditions, there are also a variety of medications that can be used to control temper outbursts.

Contact a New Port Richey Brain Injury Attorney

If you or a loved one has suffered a brain injury, the chances of developing a long-term mental disorder are significantly elevated. Fortunately, you may be able to seek compensation for your injuries if the injury was the result of someone else’s negligence. Please contact the Dolman Law Group for a free consultation by calling 727-853-6275.

Dolman Law Group
5435 Main Street
New Port Richey, FL 34652
(727) 853-6275