How can stroke change my life?
Immediately after a stroke, a survivor may respond one way, yet weeks later respond entirely differently. Some survivors may react with understandable sadness; others may
be amazingly cheerful. These emotional reactions may occur because of biological causes due to stroke or because of the effects of a stroke (psychological causes). These changes may vary with time and can interfere with rehabilitation.
What emotional changes are biological?
Emotions may be difficult to control, especially soon after a stroke. There are two common emotional responses caused by biological changes.
Emotional lability, also called “reflex crying” or “labile mood,” can cause:
- Rapid mood changes — a person may “spill over into tears” and then quickly stop crying or may start laughing.
- Crying or laughing that doesn’t match a person’s mood.
- Crying or laughing that lasts longer than seems appropriate.
Post-stroke depression is characterized by:
- Feelings of sadness
- Hopelessness or helplessness
- Changes in eating, sleeping and thinking
Treatment for post-stroke depression may be necessary. Don’t hesitate to take antidepressant medications prescribed by your doctor.
What emotional reactions are psychological?
Post-stroke psychological emotions are “natural.” They’re just part of adjusting to the changes brought by a stroke. Often talking about the effects of the stroke and acknowledging these feelings helps stroke survivors deal with these emotions. Some common psychological reactions to stroke are:
- apathy or not caring what happens
- lack of motivation
- depression or sadness
How can I cope with my changing emotions?
- Tell yourself that your feelings aren’t “good” or “bad.” Let yourself cope without feeling guilty about your emotions.
- Find people who understand what you’re feeling. Ask about a support group.
- Get enough exercise and seek out enjoyable activities.
- Give yourself credit for the progress you’ve made. Celebrate the large and small gains.
- Learn to “talk” to yourself in a positive way. Allow yourself to make mistakes.
- Ask your doctor for help. Ask for a referral to a mental health specialist for psychological counseling or antidepressant medication if needed for depression.
What are the warning signs of stroke?
- Sudden weakness or numbness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden severe headaches with no known cause
Learn to recognize a stroke, because time lost is brain lost.
Today there are treatments that can reduce the risk of damage from the most common type of stroke, but only if you get help quickly - within 3 hours of your first symptoms.
Call 9-1-1 immediately if you experience these warning signs!
Content courtesy of: American Heart Association