Brain Injury, Depression, and Therapy

Erin Sesemann, Therapist, Boone, NC

Dr. Erin Sesemann, PhD, LMFT, CBIS (she/her/hers) takes a holistic approach to counseling with her specialized training in Medical Family Therapy, EMDR therapy, and certification as a Brain Injury Specialist. Her office is based in Boone, North Carolina, offering in-person and online therapy to people across North Carolina.

Depression After a Brain Injury

It is not unusual to experience depression after a brain injury. People generally are not expecting to get a brain injury and it comes as an unexpected shock that can lead to depression. Therapy can help you cope and adjust to life after a brain injury.

Your brain injury might be from one of the following different types of injuries (learn more about the different types of brain injuries from the Brain Injury Association of America):

  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Concussion (or mild TBI)
  • Brain cancer
  • Tumor resection
  • Stroke
  • Loss of oxygen (also called hypoxic or anoxic brain injury)
  • Other types of illnesses or accidents

Regardless of how it happened, a brain injury dramatically changes your life. Brain injuries can also affect the lives of your closest family members and friends. 

What is Depression?

People feel sad, down or depressed every once in a while and this is common. Clinical depression is often diagnosed when the depression symptoms get in the way of your daily life and linger for weeks. More specifically, if your life and ability to live your life are being limited by depression. 

Signs of depression include, but are not limited to:

  • Fatigue
  • Low energy
  • Sleeping a lot
  • Trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep
  • Hopelessness
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of pleasure in life
  • Difficulty focusing or concentrating
  • Anhedonia, or being unable to feel pleasure or enjoy yourself
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Blaming yourself
  • Thoughts of death or dying
  • Suicide ideation,  thoughts of wanting to harm yourself or end your life (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255)

Brain Injuries and Depression

A brain injury can change how your mind and body feel in ways that are similar to depression due to physical changes in the brain. This happens when the brain injury disrupts how your hormones are regulated in the body and how the neurological pathways in your brain lead to your thoughts, actions, and feelings.

Changes in hormone regulation affects many areas of life such as: appetite, sleep, mood, sexuality. There can be a lot of overlap in changes from brain injuries and depressive symptoms.

For example, as a result of your brain injury: 

  • Your appetite may be suppressed 
  • Your circadian rhythm may be thrown off which makes it difficult to sleep
  • Your brain tires faster than before so you have less energy
  • Your sex drive has gone up or down


Depression can also affect your appetite, make it difficult to sleep, lead you to feel down and tired, and change your sexuality.

Whether these changes are the result of the brain injury, depression, or a combination of both, there are still things you can do to manage the changes.

Rehabilitation After a Brain Injury

It is helpful to look for healthcare professionals who are familiar with brain injury rehabilitation. A certified brain injury specialist (CBIS) is someone who has (a) at least 500 hours working with people after brain injuries as a professional, (b) received specialized brain injury education/training by the Brain Injury Association of America trainers (CBIST), and (c) passed the certification exam. 

Your rehabilitation team might include different types of certified brain injury specialists, such as physical medicine & rehabilitation physicians, neurologists, physical therapists, speech language pathologists, occupational therapists, mental health therapists, psychiatrists, etc.  These rehabilitation professionals help you get back to your life by adjusting to the physical, cognitive, and emotional changes that resulted from the brain injury and lifestyle changes.

Therapy in Boone for Depression After a Brain Injury

Therapy can help you make sense of what has happened to you since your brain injury and gain new skills to cope with the changes in your life. It can feel overwhelming, but there is hope that you can adapt to the changes from the brain injury to create a life you feel grateful for, maybe even enjoy. 

As a licensed marriage and family therapist and CBIS, I am here to help. We will explore how you are affected by your brain injury and depression in order to help you feel better. Call me at my office in Boone, NC at 828-600-5051 to request an appointment or schedule your first free 15 minute phone consultation. 

If you are not sure therapy is right for you, then check out my other blog articles:


If you are in crisis please call or text: 

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