Anxiety and Depression

What are anxiety and depression?

Anxiety is when a person has an uncomfortable feeling of nervousness or worry about something that is happening or might happen in the future.1 Anxiety may affect your ability to concentrate, sleep or carry out everyday tasks at home, work or school. Anxiety can be caused by a traumatic event such as a TBI. Anxiety is extremely common and can be treated with the help of a medical professional.

Major depression is sometimes called major depressive disorder, clinical depression, unipolar depression or simply ‘depression’. It involves low mood and/or loss of interest and pleasure in usual activities, as well as other symptoms. The symptoms are experienced most days and last for at least two weeks.2 Depression can be caused by suffering a trauma such as a TBI. If you are suffering from depression reach out to your medical professional or contact organisations that can help such as Beyond Blue: call 1300 22 4636 or visit


Anxiety and Depression following a Traumatic Brain Injury

Mood disorders such as anxiety and depression are common symptoms post-TBI. Anxiety and depression may occur due to direct damage to the brain affecting regions responsible for regulation of mood. Alternatively, anxiety and depression may occur due to the experience of the traumatic event that led to the injury, or to the ongoing nature of the symptoms.


It is thought that 40 – 60% of patients who experience a moderate to severe TBI will go on to suffer depression. The variation in rates is due to the severity of the TBI, whether patients suffered from depression prior to their TBI and how long after the TBI occurred before the patient was diagnosed.3

Many other symptoms of a TBI may overlap and contribute to post-TBI depression. These include: headaches, vestibular system function and sleep disturbance.4


Anxiety is a variable but common side-effect of TBI with between 18 – 60% of TBI patients suffering from an anxiety disorder. Anxiety following TBI can be related to outcomes of the injury such as social difficulties and personality changes.5 It is also thought that living with cognitive impairments such as reduced speed of processing information, along with the pressure of trying to be ‘like you were before your TBI’ in terms of keeping up with workload and social networks, may contribute to feelings of fatigue, stress and anxiety.



Symptoms of Depression

There are a substantial number of signs and symptoms which can be considered a symptom of depression. For a full checklist visit:

Some of these symptoms include:

  • Feeling sad, low, unhappy, irritable and overwhelmed
  • Changes in behaviour including withdrawing from social activities, family, friends and work or school
  • Sleep disturbances or not sleeping at all
  • Significant weight loss or gain
  • Headaches
  • Feeling sick and run down

Symptoms of Anxiety

There are both emotional and physical symptoms of anxiety. These include:

  • Excessive worry including feeling apprehensive or powerless
  • Feeling as though something bad is going to happen
  • Increased heart rate
  • Breathing rapidly
  • Feeling tired or weak, with difficulty sleeping
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Muscle tension and headaches
  • Hot and cold flushes

If you or someone you love has suffered a TBI and you believe they are suffering from depression or anxiety it is extremely important that medical help is sought immediately. Medical advice is available through your GP, neuropsychologist or specialist or via organisations such as Beyond Blue.

Disclaimer: Please note that this information does not provide medical advice for individuals. Individual medical advice should be sought from your medical practitioner.



    1. Cambridge Dictionary,
    2. Beyond Blue,
    3. Ricardo E. Jorge, MD; Robert G. Robinson, MD; David Moser, PhD; et al: Major Depression Following Traumatic Brain Injury
    4. Benjamin S. Alderfer, MD; David B. Arciniegas, MD; Jonathan M. Silver, MD: Treatment of Depression Following Traumatic Brain Injury
    5. Kate Rachel Gould, Jennie Louise Ponsford & Gershon Spitz(2014) Association between cognitive impairments and anxiety disorders following traumatic brain injury, Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology,36:1,1-14, DOI: 1080/13803395.2013.863832