Emotional Recovery After a Stroke

After a stroke, you and your caregiver might be busy focusing on what it takes for your body to recover physically, such as walking and speaking. But addressing the emotions that you experience after a stroke is just as important to your recovery.

Many people experience anger, sadness, a sense of loss, frustration, fear, and worry after a stroke. Such feelings are quite common, and the way in which you manage them can make a significant difference in your quality of life.

Depression

Post-stroke depression can happen weeks, months, or even years after a stroke. It sometimes comes from frustration at not making progress as quickly as you’d like in your physical recovery, or feeling as if you are a burden to others.

Signs of depression include:

  • Ongoing sad, anxious, or empty feelings
  • Feeling hopeless and/or worthless
  • Losing interest in things you used to enjoy
  • Withdrawing from other people
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Changes in appetite
  • Trouble with concentrating and remembering
  • Changes in appetite or eating patterns

Left untreated, depression has the potential to slow down your recovery. It can worsen physical symptoms caused by the stroke, such as sleep issues and fatigue, and might also can have a negative impact on your brain function.

Anxiety

Anxiety occurs when you focus too much on your worries or concerns after a stroke. Going over these worries again and again in your mind, without reaching a conclusion, is not productive, and can be a roadblock in your recovery.

The good news is that there are effective treatments for depression and anxiety after a stroke. They include medication, changes to your diet, mental health therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and physical or speech therapy to help you communicate better in order to share your feelings.

Pseudobulbar Affect (PBA)

The pseudobulbar affect, or PBA, is an outburst of uncontrollable crying or laughing that can sometimes happen after a stroke. It can occur at any time, including in inappropriate social situations.

Only a healthcare provider can diagnose PBA. PBA is often mistaken for depression or anxiety, but getting an accurate diagnosis is important because treatment options are available.

Mood disorders such as depression, anxiety, and PBA can significantly impact the lives of stroke survivors and their families. Researchers are investigating whether certain kinds of strokes, or strokes affecting certain areas of the brain, are more likely to lead to mood disorders.

One of the best ways to support emotional recovery from a stroke is to share your feelings, worries, and concerns with your family, friends, and healthcare providers. This is also true if you are a caregiver and you believe your loved one is having trouble coping with emotions.

Many people have found that their emotional recovery was helped by participating in support groups. The American Stroke Association and the National Stroke Association provide registries of support groups that you can search by state or zip code. You also can find support online by searching social media sites such as Facebook.

The key to a healthy emotional recovery after a stroke is focusing on the positive steps you’ve made, expressing your worries and frustrations – and reaching out for help when you need it.

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