Recovering from a concussion can be a long, difficult process. The amount of rest you should get after a brain injury often depends on the severity of the trauma. This makes sense: the harder you are hit, the worse the injury and the longer it will take you to get back on your feet. Generally, the prescription for a speedy recovery after a traumatic brain injury (TBI), even a mild one like a concussion, is plenty of sleep and activities that are not challenging either physically or mentally. However, researchers in Wisconsin have recently discovered that anxiety could affect your TBI recovery by increasing healing times.
The study examined over 2,000 high school athletes, who were quizzed about their physical and mental state before the start of the sporting season. Some students reported problems like anxiety, depression, and psychosomatic issues, like pain and fatigue. Psychosomatic symptoms include aches and discomfort that have absolutely no physical cause. Instead, these complaints are caused by mental pain or stress that manifest as physical ailments. The study found that students who reported psychosomatic symptoms took much longer to recover from a brain injury than their peers.
Why Do Psychosomatic Symptoms Increase Recovery Times?
Although this research is still new, the correlation between mental stress and recovery times seems clear. The reason that rest is the main treatment for a brain injury is that a period of low activity allows the brain time to heal itself. In this way, traumatic brain injuries are just like most other physical injuries. If you break your leg, you are going to avoid walking on it as much as possible until it has time to heal.
However, it can be much more difficult to rest your brain than it is to rest your broken leg. While you are sitting around with your leg in a cast, you can keep yourself busy doing a whole bunch of things like finally finishing a Sunday crossword puzzle, teaching yourself how to knit, or blogging about your latest superhero universe theory. If it’s your brain that needs rest, your best bet is sleep. But you can’t sleep all day, and when you are awake, it can be very difficult to find something to do that is not mentally tiring. Even just sitting in a dim room can be a problem if your mind starts to wander. If you have a history of anxiety and psychosomatic complaints, shutting off your brain can be nearly impossible.
The best way to speed your recovery time after a concussion may be to get rid of your stress, which is of course easier said than done. This may prove especially difficult for high school athletes, like those involved in the study, who have tests, essays, exams, and college applications to worry about in addition to dances, parties, and getting their driver’s licenses. Still, researchers hope that this study and others like it will contribute to a deeper understanding of just how the brain functions and how it heals once it has been injured.
The attorneys at our personal injury law firm have been helping victims of traumatic brain injury and their families for over 30 years.