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Women with TBI at greater risk of mental health problems
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Traumatic brain injury (TBI) occurs due to a severe injury to the brain caused by an external force. A major cause of death and disability worldwide, TBI can be classified based on severity, causes or other features. Some of the causes of TBI include falls, violence and vehicle accidents. It may cause a person to experience a variety of physical, emotional, cognitive and behavioral effects, and its outcome can range from disability to death.

According to a new research, TBI acts on the body’s stress axis differently in female and male mice. The study was presented at the ENDO 2017, the Endocrine Society’s 99th annual meeting held in Orlando, Florida, from April 1-4, 2017. Experts feel that findings of the study could help explain why as compared to men, women experiencing blast injuries face a greater risk of developing mental health problems. Notably, while men are more disposed to experience a TBI, women who suffer the injury have an increased risk of developing mental illnesses.

The study examined how injuries sustained due to blasts disrupted the stress axis, specifically the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Hormones produced by glands in the stress axis affected parts of the brain involved in regulating fear and anxiety. The central stress response system, the HPA axis, is responsible for the neuroendocrine adaptation component of the stress response.

“The research provides a missing link between a mild blast injury and the subsequent development of neuropsychiatric disorders such as anxiety and PTSD. The study suggests that mild blast traumatic brain injuries dysregulate the neuroendocrine stress axis differently in women and men,” said Ashley Russell, first author and a Neuroscience Ph.D. candidate at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU) in Bethesda, Maryland.

Mice exposed to mild blast injury

As part of the research, scientists exposed male and female mice to a mild blast injury using the ORA Advanced Blast Simulator at the USU. Post the tests, the exposed mice were compared to the mice that did not receive blast injury. According to researchers, exposed mice produced altered levels of corticosterone, a hormone released post activation of the stress axis. The researchers also observed that as compared to male mice with TBI, female mice showed greater imbalance of corticosterone levels. The stress response was observed both short-term and long-term post the blast injury.

As per Russell, TBI causes short-term and long-term neuroendocrine imbalance that may result in anxiety- and stress-related disorders. She said that while there are no therapeutic interventions to alleviate the consequences, more research is required to determine the reason behind these effects and their treatment. According to her, understanding how TBI could interfere with body’s stress response may help in developing better interventions to treat TBI and the resulting mental health conditions.

TBI: The silent killer

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), TBI contributes to about 30 percent of all injury deaths in the United States. The CDC data also shows that in 2013, there were about 2.8 million TBI-related emergency department (ED) visits, hospitalizations and deaths in the U.S. As per the agency, TBI contributed to the deaths of about 50,000 Americans in 2013.

A worldwide public health problem, TBI has often been termed as the silent epidemic due to the limited knowledge about the problem and its symptoms that may not be immediately evident. According to the CDC, those who survive TBI face effects that last for a few days or the rest of their lives. Some of the TBI effects include impaired thinking, movement or emotional functioning.

While TBI is caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head, not all blows to the head result in the injury. The severity of the injury may range from mild to intense. One way to measure the severity of the injury is the length of time that a person is unconscious. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Association, post-TBI, victims often report symptoms in the days, weeks or months, following the incident.

Some of the most common symptoms post a head injury include physical complaints such as dizziness and poor balance, cognitive changes like memory problems and slowed performance, and psychosocial concerns such as depression and anxiety. Studies show that depression occurs more often after a brain injury. One of the reasons cited for it is that brain injury causes an imbalance in certain brain chemicals and upsets the brain networks that are critical for mood regulation. Another cause of depression in TBI cases may be psychological and social changes such as losing a loved one or losing abilities post the injury.

In adults with TBI, the typical concerns often involve relationship and work challenges. In addition, adults are also more prone to personality changes and have problems with social judgment post a TBI. Such changes may directly affect the interpersonal, family, educational and work experiences of the individual.

Road to recovery

As the study shows, TBI can result in anxiety and depression. Sovereign Health offers treatment for mental health illnesses such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD), and bipolar disorders, among others. At Sovereign Health, we understand that women trauma survivors are often hesitant and fearful of seeking treatment. Although all programs at Sovereign Health utilize trauma-informed care, our Chandler facility offers a women-specific trauma treatment program.

Sovereign Health of Arizona’s Chandler center is a female-only residential rehab facility that offers highest quality care for mental health disorders, substance addiction and co-occurring conditions. At Sovereign Health of Arizona, women patients suffering from mental health conditions receive private, safe and compassionate care in a safe and supportive environment. For more information on treatment for mental illness at Sovereign Health of Arizona, give a call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-598-5661. You can chat online with our counselors to know more about any of our specialized treatment programs offered at our finest mental health treatment facilities.

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