The Truth About Mental Health and Concussions

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When talking about what a concussion is from what it is not, it is important to view the injury from both a functional and a physiological  perspective.  Functional can be defined as something that is practical and useful.  A broad definition of a concussion can be explained by a traumatic brain injury that is caused by rapid acceleration and deceleration of the head, caused by a blow to the body or head.  Such events can include motor vehicle collisions, head to head contact, blunt trauma, sport injuries, falls and many more.

These events impair neurological function and can present through a variety of symptoms.  Some of these symptoms include headaches, loss of consciousness,  blurred vision, fatigue, sensitivity to light, sensitivity to noise, feelings of anxiety, feelings of sadness, difficulty concentrating, difficulty falling asleep, and difficulties balancing.

The World Health Organization (WHO)  defines mental health as a “state of well- being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” This definition has become more accepted as it has made substantial progress with respect to moving away from the idea of mental health being a state of absence of mental illness. 

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, “mental illness can take many forms, just as physical illnesses do.” They can be classified under anxiety disorders, depression and bipolar disorders, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), phobias and panic disorders, post- traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and schizophrenia. Mental illness may affect your mood, thinking and behaviour. The symptoms can range from loss of motivation and energy, changed sleep patterns, extreme mood swings, disturbances in thought or perception, or overwhelming obsessions or fears. 

While the physical and cognitive impact of a concussion has been highly documented throughout research, many individuals go on to have mood related consequences such as anxiety and depression. While growing, the research continues to support the need for assessment of these mood related changes especially in those who may already be inclined to these pervasive symptoms.

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