OBJECTIVES: To investigate coping strategies in relation to emotional adjustment in individuals with traumatic brain injury (TBI) 1-5 years postinjury and to compare these with a group of 40 participants who sustained serious orthopedic injuries. DESIGN: Participants completed measures of handicap and coping strategies, and rated their levels of depression, anxiety, and self-esteem on standardized questionnaires. SETTING: Participants had received inpatient rehabilitation at Bethesda Hospital 1-5 years prior to completing questionnaires. They were recruited from a list of consecutive admissions. PARTICIPANTS: 88 TBI individuals were compared with 40 participants who had sustained serious orthopedic injuries without damage to the central nervous system. They had all been involved in motor vehicle or work-related accidents. OUTCOME MEASURES: Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) and State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI). RESULTS: Consistent with previous studies; a significant proportion of the current sample displayed high levels of emotional distress. Results showed few differences between the TBI and orthopedic groups. Coping strategies characterized by worry, wishful thinking, and self-blame were associated with higher levels of depression and anxiety in both groups. Strategies focusing on problem solving and having a positive outlook were related to lower anxiety levels, but to a lesser degree. CONCLUSIONS: This study has provided further evidence that coping strategies are associated with emotional outcome in TBI individuals. There is now a growing empirical basis on which preliminary interventions can be based.