Depression Caused by Traumatic Brain Injury

Depression Caused by TBI

Last week’s blog, Neurosteroids for Treatment of TBI, addressed the significant prevalence of hormone deficiencies following traumatic brain injury (TBI).

The underlying treatable symptoms of neurosteroid insufficiency (growth hormone, testosterone, DHEA, pregnenolone, estradiol, progesterone, thyroid) following TBI is currently not well known or accepted in traditional medicine. Hence, patients may be labeled with post-concussion syndrome, depression, anxiety or PTSD and continue to suffer with those symptoms for years without proper treatment, or even the wrong treatment worsening their symptoms.

Neuropsychiatric Disorder Diagnoses Commonly Follow TBI 

  • Over half of all individuals who sustain a TBI will become depressed within the first year after the injury
  • Some research shows up to 77% will become depressed within the first year
  • Greater than 60% are estimated to become depressed within seven years
  • There is a two to three-fold increased risk of suicide following brain injury versus those who have not suffered brain injury
  • The prevalence of any psychiatric illness within one year following mild TBI has been shown to be up to 34% and 49% for moderate to severe TBI

Rather than identifying the driving force of the depression from insufficient neurosteroids, most patients are placed on one or a combination of antidepressants adding more fuel to the fire of neurosteroid dysfunction and even more intolerable symptoms from the side effects.

“All in Their Head”

Many patients are told it is “all in their head” and are diagnosed with mental disorders. It turns out, this is true, but not for the reason those doctors are thinking. What exactly occurred in the brain from the trauma leading to the depression? And why might depression not develop or present in these patients until years later?

The Root Cause of Depression is Inflammation in the Brain and Depleted Neurosteroids

Initial trauma causes the cascade of long-term inflammation, damaging neuro-connectivity and ultimately leads to the hormone disruption described previously.

Discussed in a previous blog, Antidepressants – Efficacy and Risk?, common hormone imbalances causing symptoms of depression include thyroid, estrogen, progesterone, DHEA, pregnenolone, testosterone and growth hormone. The “chemical imbalance theory” once used to support the use of antidepressants for depression has been called into question as evidence to support the decades-long theory has been refuted. The exact mechanism and long-term effects antidepressants have on the brain and endocrine system are unknown.

Lack of balanced hormones causing depression is not a new concept. Here is an interesting table from Dr. Gordon’s book entitled Traumatic Brain Injury – A Clinical Approach to Diagnosis and Treatment, showing just how many articles have been published on the association between depression and hormone deficiencies from 2000-2012 alone:

While these articles were not all screened for accuracy, the association between specific hormones and depression is eye opening. This is shocking as hormone deficiencies are most often not explored or investigated as a cause of depression prior to starting antidepressants despite literature being readily available for many years.

A common but unrecognized and underdiagnosed cause of depression in males is low testosterone (T). In a blog entitled Low Testosterone, Cause of Depression in Males, a systematic review found significant antidepressant effect with T replacement. When Low T is treated, depression can go away and antidepressants are not needed.

The two best repair hormones we have in our bodies are testosterone and growth hormone.  We need to make sure they are functioning optimally at all times.

Hormones are Powerful Miraculous Messengers and Healers

The hormones of the body all work together like a magical symphony. If just one hormone is insufficient or lacking, others will follow and not function effectively. They all play an important role and getting them to function collectively and optimally is a meticulous process, finely adjusting each into balance.

A low “normal” result, or suboptimal result, can cause a multitude of symptoms. Even small changes in hormone levels can lead to big changes in the body and wreak havoc! How is it that “little” bump on your head is manifesting decades later?  It is because of years of inflammation and depletion of brain-healing hormones.


Patients are needlessly suffering and receiving misdiagnoses and mistreatments after TBI. Treating the underlying hormone insufficiencies puts out the inflammatory fire in the brain, kickstarting the brain’s ability to regenerate, grow new connections and heal. Hormones are powerful messengers and healers for our bodies.