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The Emotional Impact of Stroke

Posted by Lisa O’Neill Hill Apr 03 2015

Black and white photo of mixed emotions

You’re watching television and a commercial comes on. It’s one you’ve seen before, but this time you burst into tears. You can’t stop crying. Later, you spill something and you become angrier than you should. You’re frustrated because you can’t control your emotions. 

If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Dealing with the emotional and psychological aspect of stroke can sometimes be just as challenging as dealing with the physical recovery. Changes in your emotions or behavior can be caused by the physical damage to your brain or from the effects of coping with the trauma and its aftermath.

It’s not unusual to be frustrated or angry that you can’t do all the things you could do before. You may be grieving the life and the identify you had before your stroke. It’s also normal to be depressed or sad. In fact, more than a third of stroke survivors are affected by depression. And some people struggle with lack of motivation or not caring what happens.

Many survivors also worry about having another stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA), especially if they’re out in public or while sleeping. Others become so worried that they can’t sleep or become anxious when they’re left alone.

Woman who is sad with her hand covering her face.These tips may help you deal with the emotional aspects of recovery:

Don’t feel guilty about your feelings. They’re not good or bad. They’re a normal part of the recovery process.

Talk to someone. Talking about the stroke and your feelings about it will help you come to terms with them.

Join a support group. Other survivors will understand what you’re dealing with and can offer insight.

Know when to ask for help. Talk to your doctor if you think you could benefit from counseling or from an antidepressant.

Exercise. It’s a natural mood booster and will help you feel better.

Find time to relax. Listen to music you enjoy, meditate, or practice deep-breathing exercises. These can be particularly helpful if you feel anxious. Writing your worries on a piece of paper also can help. 

Do something you enjoy, whether that’s watching a silly television show, spending time with your family, or savoring a good cup of coffee.

Give yourself credit. It’s important to celebrate your progress and it’s OK to make mistakes.

Tell people how you’d like them to treat you if you become emotional. You might get more upset if someone dismisses your feelings or tells you not to cry. 


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