A review of post-concussion syndrome and psychological factors associated with concussion

Brain Inj. 2015;29(2):228-37. doi: 10.3109/02699052.2014.974674. Epub 2014 Nov 10.


Objective: This study reviewed several topics related to post-concussion syndrome and psychological factors associated with concussion. Topics include neurobiological perspectives, psychological predictors of post-concussion syndrome including pre-morbid anxiety, anxiety sensitivity and cognitive biases and misattribution. In addition, the iatrogenic effects of excessive rest are reviewed and treatment options are discussed briefly.

Main results: Animal models of concussion and mild traumatic brain injury suggest that a concussion can result in anxiety and fear reactions. The pathophysiology of depression following a concussion appears to be consistent with the cortico-limbic model of depression. Additionally, some individuals may be at risk for neurobiological depression and/or anxiety following a concussion. The literature also demonstrates that pre-morbid and concurrent anxiety increases the risk for prolonged concussion recovery. Cognitive biases and misattribution of symptoms contribute to lengthy recovery from concussion. In addition, medically prescribed excessive cognitive and physical rest may contribute to a protracted concussion recovery. Supervised and graduated physical activity, the introduction of anxiety reduction techniques and cognitive-behavioural therapy of cognitive biases and misattribution are effective means of shortening the length of post-concussion syndrome.

Conclusions: Understanding, assessing and treating the psychological factors associated with concussion are effective means of preventing or shortening the length of post-concussion syndrome.

Keywords: Anxiety; depression; mild traumatic brain injury.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anxiety / diagnosis
  • Anxiety / etiology*
  • Anxiety / physiopathology
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / diagnosis
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / etiology*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / physiopathology
  • Depression / diagnosis
  • Depression / etiology*
  • Depression / physiopathology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Humans
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Post-Concussion Syndrome / complications
  • Post-Concussion Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Post-Concussion Syndrome / psychology*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Reaction Time