Depression Following a Brain Aneurysm by Stanley J. Berman, PhD
Some patients will experience depression following a brain aneurysm. This is certainly understandable when you consider all the temporary and possibly permanent changes patients may face. Many patients report multiple losses and fears, including:
- a loss of trust and fears about the integrity of one’s body, one’s overall health, and longevity
- a loss of trust in one’s cognitive functioning in terms of overall organization, planning, monitoring, thinking clearly, concentrating, problem solving and avoiding distraction
- a loss of trust in one’s ability to continue in his or her job
- fears about being able to be in charge of one’s life
- fears about independence and self-care
- fears about changes in emotional, cognitive, and behavioral functioning
While many patients have an easier recovery and return to their lives, many others have multiple challenges. When you consider the losses and fears listed above, it is understandable that experiencing depression may occur.
We do not have studies about the rate of depression in aneurysm survivors. The closest statistics we have are from stroke patients, who experience depression at a rate of 14-19%. This compares to a national incidence of depression in the U.S. population of 17%. Consequently, aneurysm survivors experience depression at rates comparable to the general population.
Depression following a major illness is frequently seen; there is even a diagnosis for “Depressive Disorder Due to Another Medical Condition.” There is a continuum of the severity of depression and depressive symptoms. Across this continuum, patients typically report:
- low mood
- feelings of hopelessness, and tearfulness
- under or over-eating
- sleeping too much or too little
- low energy
- low self-esteem
- diminished pleasure
- difficulty thinking and concentrating
- difficulty completing daily tasks
While there is effective help and treatment available, many patients feel a sense of stigma in seeking mental health services. Concerned physicians and nurses can answer your questions about mental health services, help you with your concerns about stigma, and assist you with a referral.
Aneurysm survivors may seek multiple types of help. Patient support groups offered by the Brain Aneurysm Foundation are invaluable for many survivors. Individual counseling may be offered by the many licensed mental health professionals in the fields of psychiatry, psychology, psychiatric nursing, social work, and counseling. Often a combination of psychotherapy with a psychiatric medication is the most effective approach to resolving a depressive episode. The goal of successful treatment is to achieve significant symptom reduction, regain a sense of control and purpose in your life, return to your important previous pursuits, create meaning in the face of a “new normal,” and return to a sense of well-being.