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3 Common Post-stroke Emotional and Behavioral Changes

Posted by Mara Calomino Dec 04 2013

Brain injury as a result of stroke may affect how a survivor thinks, feels and behaves.

It’s important to be aware of the more common emotional and behavioral changes so the survivor and caregivers understand what is happening.  Some changes to look for include:

Depression: It is an often overlooked, yet common condition after stroke. Depression can come in many forms but often is characterized by helplessness, hopelessness, low self-regard, harsh self-criticism and the desire to seek isolation. A certain amount of depression is normal and comes along with the grieving process after a traumatic event such as having a stroke. But if it continues too long or begins to affect your family and your recovery it is time to seek help. Consider these coping strategies:

Counseling.  Talking with a professional can be extremely effective. They can provide a place for the survivor to express themselves freely without affecting the feelings of the family or caregiver and offer strategies for overcoming depression
Change in Routine.  There are others ways to combat depression such as change in eating patterns, exercise, sunlight and stimulating the brain with a different emotion or activity.


PBA: Or Pseudobulbar Affect is a term for dramatic mood swings. This includes outbursts of crying or laughter. These changes may not fit the survivor’s mood and could last longer than seems appropriate. Emotionalism usually subsides after a period of time and is more intense right after a stroke. Learn more about emotional lability and consider these coping strategies:

• If you’re a survivor tell people how you’d like to be treated when you become emotional. For example, tell people not to disregard you but to continue the conversation normally.
• Let people know when you’re genuinely upset, so they don’t mistake it for emotional lability. You don’t want them to end up ignoring your true feelings. Take note of the things that trigger your mood swings so you can try to avoid those situations, activities or topics.


Anger: Stroke survivors might experience anger more frequently, be unable to control their outbursts and direct their anger toward family and caregivers. Anger can be triggered by struggling to do something, like getting dressed, others always doing things for you, not being able to express yourself or feeling overwhelmed. Consider these coping strategies:

• Do something physical to release some tension. This could be physical therapy, dancing or jogging if you are able. Or try pounding a pillow to let off some steam.
• Another technique is to look at yourself in the mirror, which may provoke other different positive emotions like laughter.


Keep in mind your actions affect your loved ones around you. Don’t be too hard on yourself and try to understand that they are only trying to help you.

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