How to Identify and Treat Post Stroke Depression

How to Identify and Treat Post Stroke Depression

Post stroke depression is a serious and, unfortunately, common side effect of stroke, affecting more than one third of stroke survivors. Luckily there’s something you can do about it. Find out if you suffer from post stroke depression and what your options are here.

What Causes Post Stroke Depression?

Depression is caused by biochemical changes in the brain. So when the brain is injured by a stroke, you might not be able to feel positive emotions as much as before. And when there are other side effects that you’re already trying to deal with, negative emotions can snowball into depression.

Symptoms of Post Stroke Depression

According to the American Stroke Association, symptoms of depression include:

  • Persistent anxiety and sadness
  • Feelings of hopelessness and pessimism
  • Feeling worthless, helpless, or guilty
  • Loss of interest in hobbies that were once enjoyed
  • Fatigue and irritability
  • Insomnia and restlessness
  • Thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts

If you experience any of those symptoms and believe you’re suffering from post stroke depression, please talk to your doctor. Far too many stroke survivors don’t take their symptoms seriously and shrug off the pain, thinking that it will just fade with time. But that’s usually not the case, and ignoring the symptoms will slowly diminish your motivation to pursue recovery. So don’t sell yourself short. A simple talk with your doctor is an easy first step.

Carefully Identifying Depression

Depression after stroke can be tough to identify, which is why we love talking to our doctors! If a crying outburst lasts for a few minutes and then suddenly stops, it might not be depression. Instead, doctors call this condition ‘emotional lability’ and it’s usually most prominent in the first few months after stroke. So when talking with your doctor, be sure to note the duration of your outbursts if you have any.

Treatment for Post Stroke Depression

There are many different ways to treat post stroke depression. Sift through these treatment options and then talk with your doctor to see what’s right for you:

  • Probiotics! Yes, probiotics can actually help treat post stroke depression. It has to do with the gut brain axis and the way that your brain communicates with your mind. Plus, your gut is responsible for creating GABA, a feel-good neurotransmitter, and you can’t make it if your gut is unhealthy!
  • Psychotherapy, often known as “talk therapy,” has been shown to help with depression because it allows you to express yourself and relieve negative emotions. There are many different types of psychotherapy, like Dance Movement Therapy, that you can try to see what works for you.
  • Socializing is another great solution that can help reduce feelings of isolation that tend to make depression worse. Try making plans with your friends or find a support group – there’s a lot of them out there!
  • Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes, created by the National Institutes of Health, is a program that outlines different steps that you can take to improve your life physically and emotionally after stroke! To learn more, see our TLC guidelines.

A Little Pep Talk from Us

Repeat after us: There is a life after stroke. I am not weak and I am not my depression.

When you can recognize that your negative emotions are just a chemical reaction in your brain, it helps remove your identification with it. And once you sever your identification with depression, you’ll feel more capable of change and willing to push through. You are so strong! We believe in you!