Concussions Can Lead to Schizophrenia and Other Mental Illnesses

I was in a car accident. Seven cars rear-ended into my mom’s car. My mom’s car was hardly damaged and everyone was fine, except for me. I ended up with post-concussive syndrome. The doctors prepared me well for the physical aspects of my recovery, but they failed to prepare me for what would change my life. Over the next year I would struggle through major depressive disorder, and depersonalization-derealization disorder. Fortunately for us, I am a naturally curious girl and did some research into the questions I had about the changes my body was going through. Below is a list of some common mental illnesses that can arise from concussions.

However, before we get to the list, let me explain what concussions and mental health have to do with each other.

One definition of concussion is: “The acute psychological experience of trauma incurred through head impact, acceleration, or both: an alteration or limited loss of consciousness” (Parker, 1, 2012). Thus, concussions and the processes of mental health occur in the same place: the head. More specifically, ScienceNordic says that concussions “can affect the neurotransmitters that the brain uses to communicate between various parts of the nervous system, and this disrupted balance is associated with the development of mental disorders” (Hansen, 2014). Or, as my doctor Raymond Smith simply said, concussions deal with an injury to the brain and mental health is dependent on the brain. Now that we are all on the same page, let’s check out some of the more common mental illnesses that can arise from concussions.

  1. Depression

Danish scientists did a national register study on all Danes who lived between 1977-2000 (Hansen, 2014). According to the census, that was 1.4 million people at that time. Of the 1.4 million people, 113,906 of them were admitted to the hospital with brain injuries and followed up with the scientists in 2010 (Hansen, 2014). Being careful to adjust for family history of depression and correlations of depression with other injuries, 59% of the subjects had developed depression. What about sports stars, specifically? Well, another study was conducted that looked specifically at former collegiate athletes, mental health, and concussions (Kerr et al., 2014). An online questionnaire was sent out to Division 1 university players between 1987 and 2012. The results showed that those who had reported concussions had a 2.4 times greater of a chance of developing depression than those without concussions (Kerr et al., 2014).

  1. Comorbid Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

All of those fancy words simply mean that PTSD occurs in a patient along with another psychiatric disorder (National Center for PTSD, 2017). Some symptoms of comorbid PTSD are depersonalization and derealization, two phenomena which I have personally experienced. (Whether or not the phenomena occurred because of my concussion has yet to be determined. However, it is curious that I experienced both of these phenomena shortly after the accident.)

  1. Schizophrenia

According to the Danish study described above, 65% of the 113,906 participants developed schizophrenia. However, there is no definite explanation for the correlation between this disorder or depression. Remember, correlation does not equal causation.

Works Cited

Hansen, Malene. (2014). Head Injury Can Cause Mental Illness. Retrieved    from N. (2016).

Kerr, Zachary Y, Evenson, Kelly R, Rosamond, Wayne D, Mihalik, Jason P, Guskiewicz, Kevin  M, Marshall, Steven W. (2014). Association between concussion and mental health in former  collegiate athletes. Injury Epidemiology. Retrieved  from of

PTSD. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 23, 2017. Retrieved  from

Rolland, Parker S. (2012).Concussive Brain Trauma: Neurobehavioral Imparment and  Maladaptation. Florida: CRC Press.

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