Childhood brain injury tied to adult anxiety, depression

Children who sustained traumatic brain injuries may experience such psychological effects as anxiety, phobias and depression more than a decade later, researchers say.

“The study suggests that brain injury is in some way related to longer-term anxiety symptoms, while previously it was thought that brain injury only leads to short-term effects,” lead author Michelle Albicini said in an email.

The anxiety may have many causes, including actual brain damage or the experience of living in an anxious family environment after the injury, said Albicini, a researcher at Monash University School of Psychological Sciences in Melbourne, Australia.

Albicini’s team found that children with moderately severe brain injuries and girls and women in general were at greater risk for long-term psychological effects compared with boys and children who had milder brain injuries.

Traumatic brain injury, or TBI, occurs when an outside force, usually a blow to the head, causes some kind of brain dysfunction, such as loss of consciousness, amnesia or damage to brain tissue that is visible on a scan.

“While in most cases people recover 100 percent from brain injury, a select few may go on to experience anxiety, depression or other ongoing psychological effects,” Albicini said.

But more research is needed to fully understand the long-term psychological effects faced by people who experience TBI during childhood, the researchers write.

To explore the question, they recruited young adults who had been treated at a New Zealand hospital for a various degrees of TBI when they were children. For comparison, the researchers also recruited a similar group of young adults who were treated for childhood orthopedic injuries such as broken arms or legs but who had no history of brain injury.

The average age at injury for those with mild TBI and those with orthopedic injuries was around 10 to 11; the…

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