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Managing Depression after Spinal Cord Injury

While depression may be common amongst survivors of spinal cord injury (SCI), especially those with paralysis, it is certainly not normal – grief, discouragement, and sadness are to be expected, but depression represents a condition that can be just as debilitating as any physical illness, and therefore should be treated as such.

According to multiple research studies, depression affects 20 to 30 percent of people with long-term disabilities in the U.S., compared to 10 percent of non-disabled people.

Depression is serious and can adversely affect one’s physical, mental, emotional, and social health and well-being. Common symptoms of depression include the following:

  • Dark state of mind
  • Lack of desire
  • Decreased activity levels
  • Decreased capacity to solve problems
  • Lack of appetite
  • Bad hygiene
  • Self-imposed isolation from friends and family
  • Inability to feel pleasure or find meaning
  • General feeling of hopelessness

These symptoms can worsen with drug or alcohol use. Those with depression are highly advised to stay sober, turn to their closest friends and family for support, and seek help from a professional mental health provider.

Fortunately, depression can be effectively treated with psychotherapy, pharmacotherapy (antidepressants), or a combination of both. Some of the most widely used antidepressants include:

  • Tricyclic drugs, such as imipramine, which may have intolerable side effects;
  • SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, e.g., Prozac), which have fewer side effects than tricyclics; and
  • Venlafaxine, which is chemically identical to tricyclics, but has fewer side effects and may also alleviate some forms of neurogenic pain.

In SCI survivors, risk of depression is highest in the first five years after the injury. Many who endure this trialsome period eventually rediscover happiness and go on to lead fulfilling lives. According to a survey, 86 percent of SCI high-level quadriplegics (both the arms and legs are paralyzed) rated their quality of life as average or better than average.

Life is worth living, even when you’re disabled. If you are depressed, please get help, including professional counseling or participation in a support group. Also, if someone else caused your injury, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical bills (including the cost of mental health services), lost earnings, pain and suffering, and more. Reach out to the experienced spinal cord injury attorneys at Wilshire Law Firm to learn more. In a FREE consultation, we can provide you with a comprehensive evaluation of your case and best legal options. Call us today at (800) 522-7274.

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