Emotional challenges after stroke

Emotional challenges after stroke

A very frequent and dangerous consequence of stroke is a feeling of anxiety, hopelessness, frustration, sadness and fear among patients who have survived the attack. These emotions are common with approximately one-third of stroke survivors who experience major depression post attack. Clinically identified as symptoms of post-stroke depression (PSD), the National Institutes of Health states that it is under diagnosed.

Depression after stroke

The phase of recovery after a stroke is crucial as it can affect the emotional state of a person as much as the physical health. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) IV categorizes post-stroke depression as “mood disorder due to a general medical condition (i.e. stroke)” with the specifiers of depressive features, major depressive-like episodes, manic features or mixed features.

The symptoms, if not managed or treated by certified medical help, can slow down the pace of recovery, thus, interfering with the quality and smooth functioning of life. Medical practitioners reveal that though this form of depression is common, women are more prone to PSD than men. The widespread belief is that this form of depression is simply a psychological reaction to the illness, which makes it so difficult to diagnose.

Looking for symptoms of PSD

The symptoms of PSD differ from person to person in accordance with the gravity, reiteration and continuance of depression. PubMed Central (PMC), U.S. National Library of Medicine says that nearly 30 percent of stroke patients develop depression, either in the early or in the late stages after stroke.

Contrary to the common belief that PSD is an expected psychological reaction to loss of cognitive functions as a result of stroke, patients suffering from it suffer from increased cognitive impairment and higher mortality rates compared with those who are not diagnosed with depression. The National Stroke Association enlists the common signs and symptoms which PSD patients exude:

  • Persistent sad, anxious or empty feelings
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Increase or decrease in appetite and eating patterns
  • Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and/or worthlessness
  • Social withdrawal
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering details
  • Aches, pains, headaches and digestive problems that do not ease with treatment
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Consequences of PSD

The consequences of this kind of depression can be disastrous if the symptoms are not recognized and patients not provided with immediate corrective assistance. A new research published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association explained: “Patients who received several sessions of a ‘motivational interview’ early after a stroke had normal mood, fewer instances of depression and greater survival rates at one year compared to patients who received standard stroke care.”

Clinical psychologists reveal that PSD can affect the functional recovery negatively, result in intellectual deterioration, set off the patient to social isolation and lead to higher mortality rate.

Way to recovery

Depression may occur after the person recovers from a stroke, but the mode of treatment differs in accordance with the situations it arises in. As the sudden onset of stroke can trigger damage to the brain, it is necessary that post-stroke indications are taken care of to prevent any kind of mental illness that would inhibit the recuperation process. Though early initiation of therapy proves to be effective in forestalling PSD, the use of antidepressants and various therapies enable its treatment in the long run.

If you or your loved one is affected by PSD, call the Depression Treatment Helpline at 866-619-7729 anytime for more information on experienced therapeutic interventions and curative services.