Do traumatic brain injuries cause bipolar disorder?

On Behalf of | Apr 24, 2023 | Brain Injury |

stylized image of human brain

According to studies, more than 1.7 million Americans suffer traumatic brain injuries yearly. Of those 1.7 million TBIs, roughly 85,000 patients deal with long-term disabilities. Washington residents often wonder if those long-term disabilities are purely physical or if traumatic brain injuries cause psychological issues, such as bipolar disorder.

What is a traumatic brain injury?

Also referred to as TBIs, traumatic brain injuries are a type of head injury that stems from a bump, blow or jolt to the head. It’s also possible to sustain a TBI if an object penetrates the skull and strikes the brain. Essentially, any injury resulting in brain dysfunction is a traumatic brain injury.

What is bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder, which used to known as manic depression, is a mental illness that is characterized by extreme mood swings which include emotional lows (depression) and emotional highs (mania or hypomania).

When you become depressed, you may feel hopeless or sad and lose interest or pleasure in activities which were once enjoyable.  When your mood shifts to mania, you may feel euphoric, energized or unusually cranky. These mood swings can affect all areas of your life.

Episodes of mood swings may occur rarely or several times a year. While the majority of people will experience some symptoms between episodes, some may not experience any at all until the next episode.

Can TBIs cause bipolar disorder?

A study published in 2014 indicates that people who suffer traumatic brain injuries are 28 times more likely to receive a bipolar disorder diagnosis later in life. This is certainly no surprise; other studies show that people with head injuries are 439% more likely to receive a mental health diagnosis. Typically, symptoms of bipolar disorder or other mental health issues present within the first year, but it may take up to 15 years after the injury for symptoms to appear.

Do TBIs worsen bipolar disorder?

The relationship between a brain injury and bipolar disorder primarily depends on the part of the brain that suffers injury. For instance, injuries to the frontal lobe often cause mood swings, problems with focus, and issues with social behavior. Injuries to the back of the brain typically result in vision problems, issues with reading and writing, and difficulty identifying objects.

Scientific studies show a correlation between traumatic brain injuries and mental health issues, such as bipolar disorder. While some mild injuries aren’t likely to cause long-term mental health issues, significant brain injuries can create long-lasting damage.