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Distinguishing Post Concussion Disorder from Depression

Dr Kathy Peace, Dr Karen Addy, Dr Diana Pidwell, Dr Louise Payne

Key facts about head injury

Even a modest blow to the head in a RTA can lead to the development of concussion. Uncomplicated concussion does not need medical treatment so most sufferers are not admitted to hospital. About half of those who suffer concussion go on to develop Post Concussion Disorder (PCD)

Generally PCD lasts for 3-6 months with complete recovery.
A small percentage of people (less than 10%) will develop chronic symptoms that last for longer than a year. This might be due to the presence of recovering or permanent brain injury and if this is the case there will be evidence on cognitive testing. Sometimes the persistent symptoms are due to other psychological factors but this can usually only be clarified by a neuropsychological assessment.

If PCD has lasted for more than six months and the person or a relative/friend is still complaining of cognitive symptoms or personality change then they should be referred for neuropsychological assessment

PCD symptoms:

Dizziness or vertigo
Low mood
Labile mood
Irritability and aggression with minimal provocation
Sensitivity to sound and light
Poor concentration
Memory disturbance
Discomfort on drinking alcohol or undue sensitivity to alcohol
Sleep disturbance.
Apathy or lack of spontaneity
Mildly disinhibited behaviour.

The following decision-points provide a useful guide to distinguish PCD from depression:


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