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Serving the Susquehanna Region

Emotions and Stroke

by Dr. Erin Miller

A stroke impacts the brain, and the brain controls our behavior and emotions. After a stroke, survivors often experience emotional and behavioral changes. Emotional and behavioral changes are a common effect of stroke. Not only can stroke impact one's mood and outlook, but the area of the brain injury and chemical changes may have significant effects on the brain. Additionally, the worries and fears of stroke can weigh on the emotions of a stroke survivor.

Depression, Anxiety, and Other Psychological Symptoms

Depression is one of the most common mood disorders in stroke survivors. Depression affects between one- and two-thirds of stroke survivors. It's characterized by feelings of hopelessness, overarching sadness, lack of pleasure in old activities, or changes in eating and sleeping patterns. Depression is not a sign of personal weakness, or a condition that can be willed away. 

Stroke survivors may also experience anxiety. Anxiety affects about 20 % of survivors and causes feelings of worry, anxiousness, and fear. Persons with anxiety may realize their anxiety is more intense than the reality of the situation, but they are unable to limit these irrational concerns. It may be very difficult to reach a state of calm during these situations. These feelings are strong enough to interfere with daily life and may limit or reduce a person’s ability to function adequately or normally.

Other psychological symptoms can include:

  • Sudden mood changes
  • Changes in personality
  • Feeling worried, pessimistic, or hopeless
  • Having thoughts of death
  • Loss of energy
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, thinking, or making decisions
  • Headache
  • Digestive problems
  • Sexual problems

Treatment for depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders will depend on a wide range of individual factors, but it is important to remember that these conditions cannot be willed away. Speak with your doctor if you are experiencing any emotional changes so that they help develop a care plan designed to address your needs.

Life After Stroke

After having a stroke, you may be discouraged. When considering treatment options for stroke, it’s important to consider your whole health and wellness. Just as you may need therapy and rehabilitation to overcome the physical effects of stroke, you may also need to consider therapy for the behavioral and emotional side effects or changes caused by stroke. It can seem overwhelming, but you’re not alone.

Treating the emotional effects of stroke not only improves the survivor’s mood, it boosts physical, cognitive, and intellectual recovery. Essential to recovery is a good support system. Your doctor can connect you, your caregiver, and your family with resources within your community designed to help you live a full life after stroke. 

Socialization is another important part of the recovery process. Stroke survivors can improve their condition by staying connected with friends, participating in church and other social groups, seeking therapy with a behavioral health specialist, and joining a support group.

A stroke happens in an instant, but the emotional effects can last a lifetime. It’s important to express your emotions and get the help you need to gain more control and start to change things for the better.