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Traumatic Brain Injury May Be More Common with Bipolar Disorder

Traumatic brain injury, or TBI, is often caused by a singular event, much like other physical injuries. It is caused by a blow, bump, jolt or other injury to the head, causing damage to the brain. TBIs are not uncommon. 1.7 million Americans sustain them each year. They are not limited to sport or combat-related injuries. They can happen anywhere, anytime from car accidents or even banging your head on a cabinet door. According to a new study, one group that may experience TBI more frequently is people with bipolar disorder.

The new study, led by Mei-Feng Huang, looked at 1,017 patients who had been hospitalized due to bipolar disorder and 9,080 controls to find if there was any difference in the diagnosis rate of traumatic brain injury and whether age or sex modified the risk.

The research team looked at medical records from the Longitudinal Health Insurance Database, which contains the data from 1 million beneficiaries of the health system in Taiwan. The data for the study included that from between 1998 to 2010. The health data included information on outpatient visits, hospital admissions, prescriptions, disease history and vital status.

The study found that people who had received inpatient care due to bipolar disorder had a higher risk of TBI than their counterparts. Approximately 6% of people with bipolar disorder had experienced TBI compared to 3.2% in the control group. The time between diagnosis of bipolar disorder and subsequent TBI was approximately 2 years.

The likelihood of experiencing traumatic brain injury increased if the patient was admitted more than once. People who experienced TBI were more likely to be younger or especially those ages 40-49, but the risk dropped after the age of 50. This does not fit with the usual pattern of risk increasing with age. Medications like antipsychotics, benzodiazepines, antidepressants and mood stabilizers also increased the likelihood for TBI. Men with bipolar disorder were more likely than their female counterparts to experience TBI.

The research team concluded that the link between traumatic brain injury and bipolar disorder needs further study to learn why there is an increased likelihood when a patient has bipolar disorder and whether it’s related to medications or something to do with the disorder itself. They hypothesized that the risk may increase because people with bipolar disorder often engage in risky behaviors like reckless driving when manic or from the result of a suicide attempt when depressed.

It’s important to keep in mind that these results only represent the people who had been hospitalized due to bipolar disorder. It’s not yet known if the data can be used to represent the entire population of people with bipolar disorder.

If you think you may have experienced a traumatic brain injury, it’s important to seek help immediately. There are different severities of TBI, but all should be checked out. Some symptoms of TBI include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Change in sleep patterns
  • Dizziness
  • Sensory problems
  • Memory loss
  • Problems with cognitive function
  • Irritability
  • Aggression
  • Depression
  • Disinhibition
  • Coma



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Image credit: Daniel Gómez

Traumatic Brain Injury May Be More Common with Bipolar Disorder

LaRae LaBouff

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APA Reference
LaBouff, L. (2018). Traumatic Brain Injury May Be More Common with Bipolar Disorder. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 1, 2020, from


Last updated: 19 Jan 2018
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