Concussion Increases Chances of Teen Depression
The lead author of the study, which appears in a recent issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health, was Sara Chrisman, M.D., a pediatrician at Seattle Children’s Hospital. She explains that the findings may lead to depression screenings for teens that have suffered a concussion. Though concussions are considered mild when it comes to traumatic brain injuries, they can be tied to significant psychological symptoms.
Previous studies have focused on concussions and adult mental health. But little is known about how a concussion in adolescence impacts long-term health.
The findings are based on data drawn from the 2007-2008 National Survey of Children’s Health, which included 36,000 participants between 12 and 17. Of those surveyed, 2.7 percent had a history of concussion, and 3.4 percent had a current diagnosis for depression.
The variables that increased teen likelihood of concussion with depression included being over the age of 15, living in poverty or a parent with a history of mental health issues. Gender was not considered to be a factor.
The study was not designed to determine a causal relationship between a history of a concussion and a depression diagnosis, and the study authors note they don’t know what might cause higher rates of depression among those who have suffered a concussion.
Increased rates of depression among concussion patients may be due to a diagnostic bias related to multiple medical exams, a doctor misdiagnosing the symptoms of concussion and instead labeling it as depression or from social isolation during recovery.
Jeffrey Max, M.D. of University of California San Diego says that about 10 percent of patients meet criteria for subclinical depressive disorder or depressive disorder within six months of suffering a concussion.
There are other psychiatric risks as well. Children with a prior history of concussion are more apt to be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and can struggle with mood regulation.
Max believes that the brain injury is likely associated with the development of depression within the first few months following the injury. Even within hours of sustaining a concussion, some patients will develop symptoms of depression and can become suicidal. The effects of concussion in children appear to be similar to those documented in research for adults.
Since teen depression can be difficult to diagnose due to normal adolescent blues. Parents interested in learning the signs and symptoms, as well as risks and treatment strategies for depression, can learn more through the National Institute of Mental Health.