The Brain Injury Association of America tells us that more than three million people in the United States are currently living with a permanent disability as the result of a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Every year in the U.S., about 2.4 million people sustain a traumatic brain injury. Outpatient therapy can cost up to $1,000 a day, and hospital-based brain injury rehabilitation can run about $8,000 a day.
In the state of Texas, when someone is physically injured because of someone else – a drunk driver, for example – was negligent, the injury victim is entitled under the law to full compensation for his or her medical expenses, lost earnings, and all other injury-related damages. Depression and anxiety are also considered injuries, and a brain injury victim can often be awarded damages for emotional as well as physical injuries. In any particular case, an experienced Houston personal injury attorney can provide the legal advice and direction that a brain injury victim and the victim’s loved ones may need.
Depression – a profound, sometimes debilitating sadness – is often the side-effect of a traumatic brain injury. Author Kara Swanson, who suffered a traumatic brain injury more than twenty years ago, writes, “When I thought about who I used to be and what I used to be able to do, I felt frightened and alone. Then the self-pity would kick in, and that made me feel ashamed.” Swanson struggled with depression for years, but over time, she learned to manage and cope with depression, and she’s now created a positive, enjoyable life.
When someone’s life changes in a significant and negative way, it’s normal to feel depressed. Depression does not reflect weakness or failure. It’s normal – not shameful – and virtually everyone suffers some degree of depression at some point in life. Depression is characterized by deep feelings of sadness, despair, and discouragement. It often follows a significant personal loss or a serious injury like TBI.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF TBI-RELATED DEPRESSION?
While some feelings of depression are to be expected after someone sustains a traumatic brain injury, if the depression becomes extreme or obsessive, seeking professional help early is imperative. When identified in its early stages, depression is more easily treated. Family members and brain injury victims themselves should understand and be on the lookout for these indications of depression:
- reduced desire or no desire to partake in recreational or social activity
- a sense of personal, guilt, loss, or worthlessness
- loss of energy, appetite, and/or the ability to concentrate
- problems with sleeping and sometimes serious sleep disorders
- slowed or distracted movement and thought processes
- suicidal thoughts
HOW DO TBI VICTIMS FIGHT DEPRESSION?
Depression can be double-edged, because when a person suffers severe depression, that person may lack the confidence and may not have the energy to do what must be done – to “pull one’s self out” of depression. Recovery from depression can take time – sometimes years – but here are some suggestions from TBI victims who have successfully dealt with depression in their own lives:
Establish a daily schedule – a routine – and adhere to it.
Stay involved with hobbies and people you enjoy.
Focus on your improvements and accomplishments.
Accept support from others. Healthy relationships help.
For many TBI victims, depression seems to “fade away” over time. Sometimes medications help. Some TBI victims find yoga or meditation helpful. Others say that a better diet and exercise are essential. Every person is different, but when depression is extreme or obsessive, the wise move is to seek counseling with a trained professional who works with TBI victims. Counseling is almost always helpful, so there’s no reason to put off seeking help. Kara Swanson writes, “One of the most important steps in recovering from any traumatic event is realizing that you need help – that you can’t always make it by yourself – and then finding the strength to seek it out.”
A brain injury is not always obvious at first, and some victims may not even realize that they’ve been injured. If the head is shaken suddenly, for example, in a traffic accident, the brain can crash against the skull even if nothing actually impacts the head. TBI symptoms may include dizziness, blackouts, memory loss, and seizures. It’s always wise to seek medical attention after any accident that causes a blow to the head or a violent, involuntary shaking of the head.
When a brain injury isn’t treated at once, the results can be tragic, and depression is only one of the possibilities. Serious brain injuries may cause epilepsy, and TBI also increases the risk for Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Ringing in the ears and vision problems are also common among TBI victims. TBI victims who do not suffer from depression or withdrawal may become overly impulsive or excessively talkative. Along with professional counseling, it’s best when a TBI victim can be surrounded by understanding, loving family members, and friends.
HOW DO BRAIN INJURIES HAPPEN? WHO IS AT RISK?
Slipping or tripping and falling is responsible for more than one in three brain injuries in the U.S. About 17 percent of traumatic brain injuries happen in traffic accidents, and about 11 percent of brain injury victims are injured in assaults. Children age 4 and under, teens 15 to 19, and adults 65 and over are the most at-risk age groups. Males suffer more traumatic brain injuries than females. Military service increases the risk.
A Houston personal injury attorney can provide sound legal advice to Texas TBI victims and their loved ones. Dealing properly with a traumatic brain injury requires a great deal of time, effort, and frankly, a lot of money, so the financial pressures on TBI victims and their loved ones are real. In Texas, the victims of negligence are entitled by law to full compensation for all of their current and future medical treatment and all other injury-related expenses.
The medical understanding of TBI is growing, but we still have much to learn. If the injury is a mild brain injury, a patient can usually be examined and discharged. A follow-up exam should be scheduled, however. Moderate and more serious brain injuries may require surgery, and rehabilitation may take weeks, months, or longer. Some patients never entirely recover. Obviously, every patient is different, but with the many treatment options available, TBI victims should be able to receive the treatment and care that they need and deserve.