The road to rehabilitation and recovery for a patient coping with traumatic brain injury is often rocky and uphill. Adding the devastating effects of major depression to the mix can often make the patient’s burden nearly unbearable. For that reason, it is vital that an affected patient find help from a specialist who is well-versed both in depression and brain injury. After a careful and thorough review of symptoms and physical and emotional history, the patient and professional might elect to use medication, psychotherapy, a combination of the two, or alternative modalities to treat the depression.
There are numerous pharmaceutical remedies on the market that are used to address the symptoms of depression. None of these works overnight, and all require ongoing monitoring by a physician. The patient should never change dosage without consulting with the physician, and needs to develop a reliable strategy to ensure that he or she takes the medicine regularly.
There are also several modalities of psychotherapy that can be used to help cope with depression. Cognitive therapy focuses on helping the person to change the negative self-talk and criticism that depressed people often engage in. More neo-Freudian analytical therapies center on a person’s childhood and how relationships with parents continue to affect coping strategies. In group therapy settings, several brain injury patients with depression gather to support each other, challenge negative behaviors, and help each other to move forward and develop strategies to face adversity.
Other less formal methods for alleviating the effects of depression have proven to be very helpful to patients with traumatic brain injury. Exercising regularly, particularly aerobically, is thought to release endorphins that lead to an increased sense of well-being. Patients may also devise ways to add as much structure to their lives as possible, often through volunteering to help others in some way. Holistic treatments such as acupuncture, massage, following an organic diet, using biofeedback and hypnosis are also potential ways to address depression.
In the end, the most important thing for a person suffering from depression and traumatic brain injury to remember is that it is essential that he or she be the owner of his or her own moods and emotions. As overwhelmingly tempting as it may be to give in to feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness, staying active and flexible can help the patient fight the urge. If the patient does not obtain satisfactory results from one form of treatment, it is important to remember that there are many other potential treatment tools available. In addition, there is no need for a person to fight this battle alone.
Fellow patients, medical professionals, family members, and the mental health community in general are ready and waiting to help. Reaching out to a local rehabilitation hospital or calling a crisis hotline are just two more ways to stay connected. Isolation and inactivity are the depressed person’s two greatest enemies, but they can be kept at bay with the competent intervention of professionals, the support of fellow victims, and the love of family and friends.