Self-efficacy and acceptance of disability following mild traumatic brain injury

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a common cause of death and disability worldwide. Although most people who sustain a mild TBI fully recover within three months, up to 15% of individuals report symptoms persisting for a year or more after injury. These symptoms, collectively referred to as post-concussion syndrome (PCS), typically include headaches, dizziness, cognitive deficits, and behavioral changes such as mood instability. Current research suggests that PCS is highly associated with the presence of depression, anxiety, and impaired quality of life.

Research on the psychological effects of PCS have focused primarily on mood disorders, and only a few studies have addressed the impact of PCS on self-efficacy, a person’s confidence in their own capabilities. To address this gap, a research team in Tel Aviv studied a group of 30 individuals who had sustained a mild TBI at least three months prior. They administered a number of measurement tools to assess the participants’ experiences with depression, PTSD, quality of life, acceptance of their disability, and self-efficacy. After analyzing the data, the researchers found that:

  • Compared to the general population, individuals who had sustained mild TBI reported higher levels of depression and PTSD, as well as lower quality of life.
  • Most participants struggled to accept their disability and were unable to come to terms with their ongoing symptoms. Men showed higher acceptance of their disability than women.
  • There were no differences in perceived self-efficacy between the TBI group and the general population. In all populations, individuals’ sense of self-efficacy increased with age.
  • Depression, low self-efficacy, low acceptance of disability, PTSD, and reduced quality of life were all significantly associated with each other.

Even when TBI doesn’t result in severe injuries or disabilities, long-lasting symptoms can significantly reduce an individual’s mood, self-belief, and quality of life. Clinicians are advised to screen all patients with a history of TBI for depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other disorders, even when post-injury symptoms appear to be mild.

Yehene E, Lichtenstern G, Harel Y, et al. Self-efficacy and acceptance of disability following mild traumatic brain injury: A pilot study. Applied Neuropsychology. (2019).

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