Depression can get in the way of doing things to help with concussion recovery.
Depression can make symptoms following a concussion, for example fatigue, feel worse.
Some depression symptoms are similar to concussion symptoms, so it can be tricky to determine the cause of the symptom: depression, concussion, or both.
When someone suffers from both concussion and depression it is recommended to treat both, as this can speed up recovery.
Low Mood is Common After Concussion
Many youth notice a change in their overall mood after a concussion, such as feeling down, depressed, sad, or irritable. This is very common!
There are several reasons:
- You feel physically unwell or in pain which tends to cause low mood
- You feel isolated from your friends and teammates because you have to rest and take time to recover
- The change your brain has experienced often causes irritability, poor sleep, and poor mood
- You already had a lot of stress in your life and this just made it worse!
Low mood is very common after a concussion, and low mood usually resolves as you get better. If the low mood persists or gets worse it is important to get help.
When Mood Changes are a Problem
Everyone struggles with difficult emotions sometimes. We all experience periods of low mood - it is just part of being human. However, mood changes can become a problem when they go on for weeks, and they are preventing you from doing things you normally enjoy. If this is happening to you, you may be experiencing depression.
Common symptoms of depression include some combination of the following items:
- Low mood, sadness, feeling blah or down, just can’t be bothered
- Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness
- Feeling tired, low in energy, hard to get motivated
- Feeling that life is not very much fun, not getting much pleasure from fun things as usual
- Feeling worried, nervous, panicky, tense, anxious
If you are having some of these symptoms more days than not, it’s important to speak with a parent or caregiver, and your family doctor.
Overlapping Symptoms of Depression and Concussion
Depression can delay recovery from a concussion. This is because depression can:
get in the way of doing things that help with concussion recovery;
make concussion symptoms feel worse;
and mimic concussion symptoms, meaning depression symptoms sometimes feel similar to concussion symptoms so it can be tricky to figure out the main cause of the symptom.
Which of the symptoms below do you think can be caused by both concussion and depression?
Common Symptoms of Depression
Common Concussion Symptoms
Early in concussion recovery it can be difficult to know if your symptoms are caused by the concussion, low mood, or both. For example, someone might experience trouble concentrating, from both the concussion and low mood.
Let’s Talk about Mental Health
It is common for people to look at physical health and mental health as separate. Typically it’s harder for people to talk about their mental well-being vs. their physical well-being. But just like everyone feels sick sometimes, everyone struggles with mental well-being sometimes: But it’s not always as obvious or visible.
Asking for support can be difficult because it's normal to worry about stereotypes and judgements. Sometimes we feel like we should be able to deal with it on our own.
When a person has a concussion, they typically have symptoms that are physical and mental. We know that by identifying and treating both, recovery is much quicker!
Treatment for Both Depression and Concussion
When people suffer from both concussion and depression, it is recommended to treat the depression and the concussion symptoms at the same time. This generally speeds up recovery.
This may include counselling, plus physiotherapy and occupational therapy for gradual return to school and activity.
The good news is there are many effective treatments for depression! You, your family, and your family doctor can decide what’s right for you. Treatments can include self-management strategies, group or individual counselling, or medication.
Sometimes you may have thoughts about suicide or hurting yourself. If you have these types of thoughts it means you need more support.
Remember - you cannot fight depression alone!
- If you are concerned about your own safety, call 9-1-1
- Go to your local emergency department.
- Talk to your parent or caregiver.
- Kids Help Phone is another option with phone, text, or messenger: https://kidshelpphone.ca/.
Add to My Recovery Plan 📒
You’ve just learned about depression after a concussion. If you think you can benefit from support managing your mood, here are some common strategies that many teenagers find helpful. You can chose the one that you would like to add to your personalized Recovery Plan.