Can concussions cause PTSD?

Yes, concussions can cause PTSD. Following a traumatic brain injury like a concussion, it is not uncommon for an individual to experience distressing psychological effects such as depression and anxiety that may lead to the development of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Studies have shown that individuals who experienced a moderate or severe TBI are significantly more likely to develop symptoms of PTSD than those who had no TBI. Symptoms can include flashbacks, intense fear or negative thoughts about oneself and the world around them, emotional numbing, changes in self-esteem or sleep patterns. It is important to get proper treatment from an experienced provider if you are experiencing these symptoms following a concussion.

Introduction to Concussions and PTSD

Concussions and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can both have profound impacts on an individual’s life. While most people are familiar with the concept of a concussion, not everyone may know what PTSD is. A concussion is typically defined as a head injury that affects your brain function caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head. It may result in serious problems if left untreated and can potentially lead to long-term complications. On the other hand, PTSD is an anxiety disorder that develops after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event such as combat or assault. It is characterized by re-experiencing symptoms including flashbacks and nightmares, avoidance of trauma reminders and numbing of emotions, as well as negative thought patterns associated with feelings of guilt and shame.

There has been considerable research done regarding whether concussions can cause PTSD; however, there is still much uncertainty about the potential link between these two conditions. Some studies have found evidence to suggest there may be an association between concussions and certain types of PTSD symptomology such as increased depression or difficulty concentrating; however further investigation will need to be conducted to provide more conclusive results. It remains unclear whether someone who has had one concussion might also be at higher risk for developing PTSD from another subsequent traumatic experience later in life due to this prior injury or its residual effects.

It is important for individuals who suspect they may have experienced either condition seek out medical attention promptly; while prompt diagnosis and treatment are important components in treating any injury or disorder accurately and efficiently, with something like concussions which affect neurological functioning it becomes increasingly important to obtain early care so damage does not worsen over time. The same goes for PTSD – its complex symptoms require careful understanding of the person’s history in order to offer effective help tailored towards their needs.

Understanding Concussions and Their Effects

Understanding what a concussion is can be the first step in knowing whether or not they can cause Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. A concussion is defined as an injury to the brain which results from a hard blow to the head. This trauma can lead to difficulty processing and remembering new information, changes in behavior, mood swings and other neurological changes that affect thought processes and coordination. These symptoms can last for days, weeks or even months after the initial trauma has been sustained.

Although each individual experiences different reactions with their concussions, common post-concussion symptoms include headaches, dizziness, balance issues, confusion and difficulty concentrating. Depending on the severity of a concussion it may result in nausea, vomiting and loss of consciousness. Not all cases require medical attention; however if any of these symptoms persist for more than 15 minutes then seeking medical help should be considered to avoid further health complications like ptsd later down the line.

It’s important to note that often times it may take years before a person recognizes they are suffering from ptsd resulting from a past concussion due to memory loss associated with such injuries. Therefore recognizing concussive injuries immediately will help prevent serious long term consequences such as ptsd since this disorder can create multiple challenges when attempting to return back into daily life activities due its extreme effects on mental health including flashbacks, feelings of guilt and depression among others.

The Relationship Between Concussions and PTSD

Research indicates that concussions may be linked to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Although medical professionals have yet to determine a definitive connection between the two, initial evidence suggests that the trauma of a concussion can trigger anxiety, depression and other mental health issues associated with PTSD.

The physical force involved in suffering a concussion is believed to cause changes in brain chemistry. Chemicals known as neurotransmitters are responsible for regulating emotions, thoughts and actions. An increase or decrease of these chemicals could lead to feelings of anxiousness, panic attacks and nightmares which are common symptoms of PTSD. Injuries such as concussions can also affect the hippocampus – an area of the brain responsible for creating memories – making it difficult for someone who has experienced a head injury to recall recent events.

Studies conducted on veterans have shown that even mild traumatic brain injuries can make someone more prone to developing long-term psychological issues similar to those observed in patients with PTSD. Similarly, people who suffer from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) after experiencing multiple head injuries may display symptoms like aggression, confusion and memory loss which are characteristic of this condition.

Although additional research needs to be conducted before confirming a direct relationship between the two conditions, it is clear there is some type of correlation between concussions and post-traumatic stress disorder that cannot be ignored. Therefore, concussion victims should receive thorough medical attention in order prevent potentially serious side effects from occurring down the line.

Symptoms of PTSD Caused by Concussions

The physical, emotional and behavioral effects of a traumatic brain injury (TBI) can result in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), particularly if caused by a concussion. In addition to the hallmark PTSD symptoms of flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety and depression that are experienced after any trauma or exposure to fear, the unique impact of a head injury can create its own set of difficulties for an individual.

One symptom associated with TBI-related PTSD is memory loss or difficulty forming new memories. As the pathways in the brain that store and retrieve memories are damaged during a concussion, it can be difficult to learn new information or remember past experiences related to the trauma. Affected individuals may have trouble recalling what happened directly before and after a head injury occurred which further exacerbates their inability to process traumas as they occur.

Alongside cognitive difficulties, other telltale signs of PTSD caused by concussions include changes in behavior such as becoming irritable more easily or engaging in activities that place them at risk for another head injury, like playing sports without taking necessary safety precautions. People struggling with TBI-related PTSD might also avoid situations where they could be put in danger again or become overly defensive when criticized because they’ve interpreted these events as threats when they actually weren’t intended that way. Mood swings can accompany this condition and sleep disturbances are common too as well as generalized feelings of hopelessness and guilt associated with not being able to do certain things anymore due to prior damage inflicted on their bodies from head injuries.

Diagnosis and Treatment for Concussion-Induced PTSD

Accurately diagnosing and treating concussions-induced PTSD can be a complicated matter. One of the primary challenges is that it can be difficult to differentiate between symptoms caused by concussion versus those related to post-traumatic stress. For this reason, doctors should look for both trauma history and changes in behavior or cognition that may indicate a head injury has occurred.

When assessing whether concussion-related PTSD is present, medical professionals will typically inquire about any recent traumatic events involving head trauma, how often these episodes occur, and the severity of them. They will usually conduct physical exams, administer cognitive tests such as memory or language assessments, evaluate balance and coordination abilities, ask questions regarding sleep patterns or emotional state and observe behavior in order to gain an understanding of the patient’s overall functioning level. Once all factors have been taken into account and a diagnosis determined, treatment methods can be implemented.

Treating concussion-induced PTSD typically involves counseling with mental health professionals to help process emotions surrounding the injury itself as well as creating strategies for managing symptoms associated with depression and anxiety which are common among those with brain injuries. Cognitive rehabilitation therapy may also prove beneficial in developing compensatory strategies for impaired areas such as memory recall or attention spans issues that many concussion sufferers experience due to their head wounds. Ultimately by combining insight gained from discussions around the incident that triggered PTSD combined with the use of evidence-based treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapies a comprehensive approach towards recovery can begin in earnest paving way to improved quality of life going forward.

Prevention Strategies to Reduce the Risk of Post-Concussion PTSD

The link between concussions and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is becoming increasingly clear. While the physical repercussions of a concussion can heal, the psychological ones often linger, potentially resulting in the development of PTSD. To prevent this from happening, it’s important to understand how we can reduce the risk of post-concussion PTSD.

There are several steps that those with concussions – or those caring for someone who has had one – can take to avoid the potential long-term effects of the injury. Primarily, these include making sure rest is taken during recovery, so that healing time and overall health do not become compromised by overworking. This means removing any physical exertion as much as possible while symptoms persist, such as avoiding sports or activities involving strenuous movement. Medical attention should be sought if necessary; depending on what concussion signs and symptoms manifest themselves, an evaluation by a physician may prove beneficial to ensure full recovery before jumping back into daily routines.

It’s also important to recognize when professional help could benefit both sufferers and their families more directly in terms of mental health support after a traumatic event like a head injury caused by concussion has occurred. Talk therapy and other evidence-based treatments for treating trauma may be beneficial for easing symptoms and reducing risks associated with developing longer term challenges like PTSD down the line. With this strategy in mind, seeking out external support from professionals is key in order to make sure that both physical and mental well-being remain optimal even after the acute phase of healing has passed following a traumatic incident involving head trauma such as concussion.

It is important to recognize the link between concussions and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This relationship can be complicated and elusive, but understanding it may prove essential in properly treating both issues. For example, if a person has suffered a concussion that was overlooked or not fully treated, they may have greater difficulty recovering from the trauma of PTSD.

Similarly, individuals who experienced physical trauma due to a concussion should be screened for PTSD because it is possible that they could develop symptoms as a result of their injury. Being aware of this connection allows doctors to take proactive steps towards early identification and treatment of mental health difficulties related to brain injury. Taking this approach can increase the chances of better managing and minimizing potential risks associated with post-concussive disorder and PTSD combined.

Those who are aware of how traumatic brain injuries can lead to PTSD can strive for preventative measures such as wearing protective headgear during high-risk activities or sporting events, paying attention to best practices for safe play on court/field, conducting full concussion evaluations even in cases where it appears minor, receiving psychological counseling when needed, etc. While these interventions do not guarantee complete protection from either condition developing later down the road due to past trauma – they offer an invaluable opportunity at building up resilience against long-term emotional struggles which might arise afterwards.

About the author.
Jay Roberts is the founder of the Debox Method and after nearly 10 years and hundreds of sessions, an expert in the art of emotional release to remove the negative effects of trauma. Through his book, courses, coaching, and talks Jay’s goal is to teach as many people as he can the power of the Debox Method. 

© Debox 2022