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Depression: Watch For It After Personal Injury

You've been injured, through someone else's negligence or purposeful aggression. You didn't initiate the situation, yet it has left you sidelined. Because of your injuries, your life has completely changed, resulting in suspension of your plans and dreams. While you await the settlement of your personal injury claim, watch out for the emotional toll such a situation can take on your health. You consider yourself a strong person, and may not feel that you could fall prey to sadness or hopelessness. However, depression frequently accompanies the massive lifestyle changes brought about by physical injuries, so look for warning signs and get appropriate help if warranted.

Depression couldn't happen to me, right?

Wrong. Depression is the most common emotional problem facing Americans today. Statistics show that 1 in 10 Americans will experience depression at some point in their lives, and the incidence of depression grows by 20% every year. It is most common among those aged 45-64, more often to afflict women than men, and more likely to occur in southern states--however, depression is no respecter of persons, social standings, or bank account balances.

How often does depression accompany personal injury?

Unfortunately, often. For instance, one study showed 33% of patients with traumatic brain injury developed depression after their injuries (anxiety and anger often occurred as well). The depression was also linked to a decline in social functioning. Spinal cord injury patients are likely to experience depression as well; after such an injury, 25% and 47% of women developed depression (more than double the rates in the general population). Proving the disorder can occur in anyone who has experienced severe injury, another study shows that depression is positively linked to adolescents who have been through a traumatic event. The more serious the trauma, the more the incidence of depression.

What are the signs of depression?

You might be surprised. You probably know that depression manifests itself as frequent crying, a sad mood, and difficulty eating or sleeping. But did you know that it can also show up in these not-so-expected ways?

  • irritability

  • outbursts of anger

  • difficulty concentrating

  • inability to make decisions

  • vague physical aches and pains, not associated with your injury

  • problems with memory

These signs are not always what one thinks of when considering depression, which may be why many cases go untreated. If you notice several of these signs in yourself--and especially if you have been having any thoughts of hopelessness or suicide--you need to talk to a professional. Most cases of depression respond to a brief course of treatment that combines therapy and antidepressant medication.

How does a depression diagnosis figure in my injury claim?

Depression is one of the types of mental anguish that qualifies for damages in a personal injury claim; anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, humiliation, and stress are other types. You must be able to prove that the depression is a direct result of the trauma caused by your injury, rather than a previously existing condition. If you are indeed diagnosed with depression, your physician and personal injury attorney can tell you whether you are entitled to further damages from the person/company responsible for your injuries.

What should I do next?

The most important step to take if you think you may be depressed is to make an appointment with a counseling professional. Whether or not the depression is associated with your injuries, you need treatment.

Depression is a serious disorder that often occurs after personal injury. Be aware of its symptoms and seek professional help if needed. If you are diagnosed with depression, talk to your personal injury attorney to see if it should be included in your personal injury case.