Anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, or obsessive-compulsive disorder, are some of the most common complications after a brain injury. The development of a post-injury anxiety disorder can occur anytime after the injury. A delay in the development of anxiety can occur as a result of increased awareness of disability. Delays can also result from pediatric brain injury, where developmental milestones have yet to be met.
A recent case study of a 21-year old man illustrates another way in which symptoms such as anxiety can manifest years after a brain injury. The young man was an outgoing, spontaneous person at age 17, when he suffered a brain injury in his left frontal lobe. He remained outgoing until age 18, when he become more and more fearful and avoidant. MRI and CT scans showed that he had a bony protuberance (bone thickening) at the area of his brain injury. He showed no other neurological or psychological signs. The protuberance was removed, and his anxiety gradually improved over a year.
Brain injury can sometimes result in anatomical and pathological changes, such as protrusions or degeneration, that continue to expand long after the initial injury. These changes can delay symptoms such as anxiety, and these symptoms may be the only clue that there is anything physically wrong.
Chaves C, Trzesniak C, Derenussen GN, et al. Late-onset social anxiety disorder following traumatic brain injury. Brain Injury. (June 2012).