How to manage emotions after a concussion

Ruth Kapelus
Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017
woman with tea and tablet

Many people are aware of the physical and cognitive symptoms of concussion, but frequently ignore emotional effects, like irritability, depression or anxiety. Emotional symptoms can accompany other persistent cognitive symptoms after a concussion and these are often the signs that go unnoticed. These symptoms can be particularly stressful for students who are struggling to keep up with their school work and busy social lives.

The best way for concussion patients to manage emotions after sustaining a concussion is to get help from a medical professional and follow their recommendations. Students who have had a concussion need the support of their schools as well as a concussion management plan. 

Each person who sustains a concussion has a unique situation and requires an individualized clinical approach, so it is important that each concussion patient receives an individualized clinical treatment plan. Schools require the support of their schools in determining the best way to balance their academic workload and should have a concussion management plan to assist them.

Sometimes patients will not realize they feel anxious and will describe feeling dizzy, tired or "foggy", and clinicians will often ask patients how much time they have spent worrying about their symptoms to uncover underlying anxiety. Once emotional symptoms have been diagnosed, increased structure in routine and daily exercise plans can often be prescribed by medical professionals.

Managing cognitive and emotional symptoms in post-concussion syndrome

There are different strategies to manage cognitive and emotional symptoms experienced when post-concussion syndrome is experienced. Interventions can include cognitive behavioural therapy, mindfulness-based relaxation, psychotherapy, information, reassurance and education.

student with head on hands

Cognitive behavioural therapy

Psychological approaches to treatment or prevention of post-concussion syndrome have been widely studied and there is promising evidence that cognitive behavioural therapy may be effective in this regard.

Mindfulness-based relaxation

Research indicates that the severity of symptoms increased when patients were under stress, and that the effects were reduced with mindfulness-based relaxation techniques.

Psychotherapy

Some rehab programs can include interventions with a psychotherapist if required.

Information, reassurance and education

Research indicates that some of the most beneficial resources for concussion patients are information about diagnosis and possible post-concussion symptoms, education on ways of coping and resumption of activities, individual and group support resources. One of the best Canadian resources used by medical professionals, as well as parents, athletes and coaches is http://www.cattonline.com

For more information, or to find a Lifemark clinic that offers concussion care, www.lifemark.ca/services/concussion-care 

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