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Keefe Disability Law
Social Security Disability & Supplemental Security Income
Toll Free 888-904-6847
Call 508-283-5500
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Q
Why Am I At Risk of Developing PTSD If I Suffer a Head Injury?

A

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) can greatly affect the way a person lives his or her life. The frustration as a victim struggles to recover adds overwhelming stress to his or her daily life, making a bad condition even worse. The stress of the injury can even cause victims to suffer post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), adding mental and emotional trauma to the physical head injury.

Researchers Find Evidence Linking PTSD to Traumatic Brain Injury

Several researchers have found evidence that TBI increases the risk of PTSD. While many of the studies involve military personnel, it is important to note that civilians who suffer falls, violent acts, and car accidents are equally vulnerable to both TBI and PTSD. Over the course of many studies, scientists have discovered some interesting interactions between PTSD and brain injuries, including:

  • One study at the VA San Diego Healthcare System followed over 1,600 Marine and Navy service members from Camp Pendleton in San Diego County. All of the service members were assessed by psychologists both before and after deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan. They found that troops who suffered traumatic brain injuries due to trauma and blast injuries were twice as likely to develop PTSD. Half of a battalion deployed to Helmand province in Afghanistan showed evidence of TBI and PTSD due to blast exposures.
  • A coordinating experiment performed at the University of California Los Angeles compared healthy lab rats with rats that had suffered TBIs. When the rats were given behavioral conditioning to induce fear, the rats with TBIs showed greater fear responses than healthy rats. The UCLA researchers examined cells in the amygdala, a part of the rats’ brains that responds to sensory information and experiences emotions. The rats with TBI showed changes in these cells that amplified the brain’s response to situations involving fear.
  • A brain study of 20,000 people has found a new way to separate diagnoses of TBI and PTSD. The patients were scanned with single-photon emission computer tomography (SPECT) to measure blood flow to different regions of the brain. While patients with TBI showed slowed activity in the areas of the brain that control mood and behavior, memory formation, and body movements. However, patients with PTSD showed increased activity in the regions involving recognition of threat and dangers, fear processing, and regulation of emotional responses. Computer-driven analysis of the brain scans allowed scientists to correctly diagnose PTSD, TBI, both or neither with 100% accuracy.

Studies Are Key to Treating PTSD

It is vital that patients have a proper diagnosis of their conditions in order to treat their TBI or PTSD effectively. The treatment plan for PTSD can be vastly different than treatment for TBI, and the treatments can even be harmful for people with the other. For instance, people with PTSD are often prescribed tranquilizers and anti-anxiety medications that slow down activity in an overactive brain, something that can be dangerous for people suffering diminished brain activity due to TBI. Similarly, techniques used to stimulate a brain with TBI can cause a person with PTSD to become even more stressed and hyperactive. People with both conditions will need a delicate mix of therapies to ensure that both of their ailments are progressing in the right direction.

If you have suffered a traumatic event that has left you unable to work, you may be able to get payment for your lost wages and medical treatment by filing for Social Security disability. Your benefits can support you as you undergo treatment for your condition, easing you slowly back into the workforce only after you are cleared to work by a medical professional. Please feel free to contact our law firm today to get started on your disability application, or download our free report, Five Most Frequently Asked Questions about Social Security Disability

John L. Keefe
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Founding Attorney of Keefe Disability Law

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