Emotional distress and awareness following acquired brain injury: an exploratory analysis

Brain Inj. 2008 Sep;22(10):765-72. doi: 10.1080/02699050802372208.


Background: Symptoms of depression and anxiety are commonly reported following brain injury, providing ongoing challenges to patients, clinicians and carers. There is increasing interest in the influence of impaired awareness on emotional distress, supported by psychological investigations.

Objective: To explore the relationship between awareness and time since injury on reported emotional distress.

Method: Awareness was assessed by comparing the reports of persons with brain injury to the reports of their treating clinicians and significant others. Fifty-four participants with acquired brain injury (ABI) completed the Awareness Questionnaire, the Dysexecutive Questionnaire and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scales. Clinicians and significant others completed the Awareness Questionnaire and the Dysexecutive Questionnaire in relation to each participant.

Results: Analyses of variance identified a main effect of awareness, such that participants with better awareness of their difficulties had higher emotional distress, regardless of time since injury.

Conclusion: Findings support psychological theories suggesting that emotional distress is a response to the stressor of a brain injury and denial of difficulty, manifesting as impaired awareness, may play a protective role. They highlight the importance of understanding a patient's level of awareness so as to provide support aimed at minimizing the impact of distress on the rehabilitation outcome.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anxiety / etiology
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Anxiety / rehabilitation
  • Awareness / physiology*
  • Brain Injuries / psychology*
  • Brain Injuries / rehabilitation
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depressive Disorder / etiology
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology*
  • Depressive Disorder / rehabilitation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Stress, Psychological / rehabilitation
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult