In DSM-IV, this disorder is called Dementia Due to Head Trauma

For more information, see Dementia Due to Other General Medical Conditions

The essential feature of Dementia Due to Head Trauma is the presence of a dementia that is judged to be the direct pathophysiological consequence of head trauma. The degree and type of cognitive impairments or behavioral disturbances depend on the location and extent of the brain injury. Posttraumatic amnesia is frequently present, along with persisting memory impairment. A variety of other behavioral symptoms may be evident, with or without the presence of motor or sensory deficits. These symptoms include aphasia, attentional problems, irritability, anxiety, depression or affective lability, apathy, increased aggression, or other changes in personality. Alcohol or other Substance Intoxication is often present in individuals with acute head injuries, and concurrent Substance Abuse or Dependence may be present. Head injury occurs most often in young males and has been associated with risk-taking behaviors. When it occurs in the context of a single injury, Dementia Due to Head Trauma is usually nonprogressive, but repeated head injury (e.g., from boxing) may lead to a progressive dementia (so called dementia pugilistica). A single head trauma that is followed by a progressive decline in cognitive function should raise the possibility of another superimposed process such as hydrocephalus or a Major Depressive Episode.


For more information, see Major and Mild Neurocognitive Disorders

Diagnostic Criteria

A. The criteria are met for major or mild neurocognitive disorder.

B. There is evidence of a traumatic brain injury - that is, an impact to the head or other mechanisms of rapid movement or displacement of the brain within the skull, with one or more of the following:

  1. Loss of consciousness.
  2. Posttraumatic amnesia.
  3. Disorientation and confusion.
  4. Neurological signs (e.g., neuroimaging demonstrating injury; a new onset of seizures; a marked worsening of a preexisting seizure disorder; visual field cuts; anosmia; hemiparesis).

C. The neurocognitive disorder present immediately after the occurrence of the traumatic brain injury or immediately after recovery of consciousness and persists past the acute post-injury period.


Rate the severity of the neurocognitive disorder (NCD), not the underlying traumatic brain injury.

Differential Diagnosis

In some instances, severity of neurocognitive symptoms may appear to be inconsistent with the severity of the TBI. After previously undetected neurological complications (e.g., chronic hematoma) are excluded, the possibility of diagnoses such as somatic symptom disorder or factitious disorder need to be considered. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can co-occur with the NCD and have overlapping symptoms (e.g., difficulty concentrating, depressed mood, aggressive behavioral disinhibition).

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