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J Nerv Ment Dis. 1993 Feb;181(2):91-9.

Are there symptoms that are specific for depressed mood in patients with traumatic brain injury?

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Iowa College of Medicine, Iowa City 52242.


This study examined the specificity of vegetative and psychological symptoms of depression among 66 patients with acute traumatic brain injury followed over 1 year. The median frequencies of vegetative and psychological symptoms among patients with depressed mood were 3 and 3. These frequencies were three times the respective rates among nondepressed patients. Although change in self-attitude and subjective anergia distinguished depressed from nondepressed patients throughout the 1-year follow-up, some symptoms, such as early awakening and difficulty concentrating, distinguished groups only after 6 months. If diagnostic criteria for major depression were modified to include only specific symptoms of depression, the standard (i.e., unmodified) DSM-III-R still had a 100% sensitivity and 94% specificity at the initial evaluation and 80% and 100%, respectively, at 1 year. There were almost no patients with depressive symptoms without a depressed mood (i.e., "masked" depressions). These findings suggest that DSM-III-R criteria for major depression are useful, even in an acute head-injured population, but also suggest that the nature of posttraumatic brain injury depressive disorder may change over time.

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