Social Isolation Following a Concussion

Social Isolation Following a Concussion

It’s not uncommon for negative thoughts and feelings to manifest following a concussion. This is especially true when symptoms persist for an extended period of time. Among these feelings are: the fear of not being able to come back as before, the sadness and disappointment of not being able to accomplish all of the activities we enjoyed and also, the anxiety that manifests when faced with situations that could trigger our symptoms. After a concussion something as simple as maintaining a friendly conversation or even just being in busy public environments can require a level of mental effort so important, that intolerable symptoms will trigger. This reality can often leads us to believe that social isolation until full recovery is the best option.

However, isolating oneself often has the opposite effect of what is hoped. More than with any other injury, when it comes to concussions, our emotional state has a significant impact on recovery. Instead of helping heal the brain, social isolation can actually lead to a declining emotional state. Losing our daily routine as well as our entourage, things that generally serve as our support system, can cause an even greater level of anxiety.

*It should be noted, brief isolation to allow complete rest of the brain is the essential first step of the recovery process. This period should however, never exceed 5 to 7 days.*

The effect of social isolation and loneliness

Social interactions are essential to our health and well-being. Many studies have already established the negative effects of social isolation on many aspects of health. For example, social isolation has been linked to: an increased risk of developing cardiovascular and infectious diseases, cognitive deterioration as well as an exaggerated reaction of the metabolic and inflammatory processes caused by stress. Keep in mind, these negative effects can occur without the presence of a concussion. In the case of mild traumatic brain injuries, this already concerning list grows even longer and more consequences can be seen. Following a concussion, the emotional stability of the patient should be a priority from day one.

Reasons for social isolation

After a concussion, many reasons can push us to choose social isolation. These can include:

  • The shame of not being like before
  • The frustration of always having to explain why we’re not feeling well even if we seem “normal” from the outside
  • The feeling that no one understands what we’re going through
  • The desire to avoid situations that can trigger or worsen our symptoms

How can we prevent social isolation?

Preventing social isolation starts with the individual’s entourage. It is up to them to make sure that regardless of the environment, the injured individual feels comfortable talking about their situation without the feeling of being a burden or judged. As a matter of fact, one of the primary objectives of an intervention program should be reintegrating the individual in their daily routine. This needs to be done progressively and planned, as fast as possible, allowing the individual to continue healing without aggravating any symptoms or creating any further damage to the brain. In certain situations, such as post-concussion syndrome, the psychological aspect can become such an important hurdle in the recovery process that the help of a psychologist can become necessary.




Barth J, Schneider S, von Känel R (2010) Lack of social support in the etiology and the prognosis of coronary heart disease: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Psychosom Med 72(3):229–238

Bassuk SS, Glass TA, Berkman LF (1999) Social disengagement and incident cognitive decline in community-dwelling elderly persons. Ann Intern Med 131(3):165–173.

Cohen S, Doyle WJ, Skoner DP, Rabin BS, Gwaltney JM Jr. (1997) Social ties and susceptibility to the common cold. JAMA 277(24):1940–1944.

Eng PM, Rimm EB, Fitzmaurice G, Kawachi I (2002) Social ties and change in social ties in relation to subsequent total and cause-specific mortality and coronary heart disease incidence in men. Am J Epidemiol 155(8):700–709

House JS, Landis KR, Umberson D (1988) Social relationships and health. Science 241(4865):540–545

Holt-Lunstad J, Smith TB, Layton JB (2010) Social relationships and mortality risk: A meta-analytic review. PLoS Med 7(7):e1000316.