Effects of brain injury can permeate beyond reckonable and documented impairments. Social isolation is one such often unmeasured and unnoticed effect. Stark contrasts in lifestyle before and after brain injury, such as social isolation, impact the injured person, family members, and friends.
Additionally, social isolation shares a causal relationship with depression. Social isolation’s potential to cause such widespread and negative changes after brain injury necessitates serious consideration and investigation.
Brain injuries can rob individuals of physical, communicative, cognitive, emotional and behavioral skills. When these skills are impaired, individuals are challenged with the difficulty of reintegrating into their pre-injury lifestyle. No longer providing the same level of support for their family and friends, their role shifts and relationships are altered. Self-worth is largely derived from social interaction with others. A life redefined by injury is a monumental shift, and in that transition, social isolation often awaits.
Though a downward spiral toward social isolation is caused by disconnect from family and friends, they are not necessarily to blame. The injured person’s difficulties in returning to work may bring about financial struggle. They may depend heavily on friends and family for daily care. Behavioral changes can be enough to cause significant discomfort for loved ones.
Stress, responsibility, and worry come with the support of a brain injured person. Many of those involved in supporting roles will drift away or lessen their involvement substantially. Those who do stay may still feel disconnected from their injured loved one. As such, through no fault of any one party, social isolation sets in as a considerable problem. The social isolation associated with brain injury perpetuates the stark contrasts in lifestyle listed above, and consequentially negatively impacts the brain injured person and those in their sphere of support.
Additionally, social isolation’s causal relationship with depression is a dismal outlook for people with brain injury. The incidence of depression five to seven years after brain injury ranges between 40 to 60% according to research literature. Though social isolation is not definitively the cause of each case of depression, there is enough room to believe it’s a significant contributor.
Through the instances explained above, social isolation is a serious problem for both the individual with brain injury and their family members. Detection of social isolation is difficult in its complexities, and solutions are few and far between. There is a significant need for investigation and development of solutions to address social isolation.
Depression is best treated by a combination of counseling, medication, and exercise. Counseling can focus on individuals’ reactions to their circumstance, and efforts to change their circumstance. Counseling can provide coping mechanisms for the injured person and family. Medications, when appropriately applied, can be used to effect the neurotransmitter systems involved in depression as well as help with sleep and anxiety. Exercise can bring about improved feelings of well-being and help to regulate the body’s production of endorphins.
Above all, depression mandates the involvement of professionals who can undertake careful investigation of the cause of depression, and numerous treatment modalities for depression.