Co-occurring Behavioral Conditions


Lt Col Reynolds
Depression, anxiety, and irritability are common symptoms of TBI, but sometimes a person develops a behavioral condition that may not be the result of the TBI but of the traumatic event that caused the TBI. Other times, a person may have a pre-existing behavioral condition that is aggravated by the traumatic event or the TBI. These are called co-occurring behavioral conditions. Dr. Green, what can you tell us about co-occurring behavioral conditions?

Dr. Green
Well, Dr. Reynolds, some common co-occurring behavioral conditions include:

  • Post-traumatic stress, or PTS
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Substance abuse, and
  • Suicidal thoughts

PTSD is a mental health condition that's triggered by a traumatic event such as war, a natural disaster, an accident, or an assault. A person can get PTSD from experiencing the event or simply witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares, and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.

Depression, or depressive disorder, is another common co-occurring condition. Symptoms of depression can include a depressed mood, an inability to enjoy things, difficulty sleeping, changes in patterns of sleeping and eating, problems in concentration and decision-making, feelings of guilt, hopelessness, and decreased self-esteem.

Substance abuse and suicidal thoughts are other common co-occurring conditions. Evidence shows that TBI patients who have one of these co-occurring conditions have a harder time recovering from their traumatic brain injury. For that reason, providers may use special questionnaires and other screening tests to assess new TBI patients for these conditions and refer them to behavioral health specialists for treatment.