How to Handle Mood Swings After Stroke

How to Handle Mood Swings After Stroke

Do you suffer from mood swings after stroke – even if you weren’t necessarily a ‘moody’ person before? If so, this article is for you.

It can be very frustrating to feel like you aren’t in control of your emotions. And the best way to alleviate that frustration is through self-understanding.

Once you know what is causing your mood swings, you can rest a little easier knowing that there are treatments options available to you.

So today, we’re going to discuss the top 5 causes of mood swings after stroke and the different treatment options for each one.

Let’s start with the most common cause:

1. Depression and Anxiety

Depression and anxiety are the biggest causes of mood swings after stroke. They are powerful emotions that can easily cause overwhelm, and overwhelm often leads to ‘moodiness’ – understandably so!

Most studies report that between one third and one half of all stroke survivors will deal with depression or anxiety, but we believe that the statistic is much higher than that.

So whatever emotions you are currently struggling with, know that it’s perfectly normal and almost every other stroke survivor can relate to you.


There are many treatment options available for depression and anxiety.

If your depression was caused by brain injury to the areas of the brain responsible for emotion (typically right-brain strokes), then medication may help.

If you aren’t into medication, then counseling may also help. There are many different types of therapy that you can look into, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, psychotherapy, and even mindfulness therapy.

Also, support and connection with other stroke survivors can help too. You can join our stroke support group on Facebook here.

2. Pseudobulbar Affect (Emotional Lability)

If you find yourself suffering from intense and frequent mood swings, you could suffer from pseudobulbar affect (also known as emotional lability).

Pseudobulbar affect is a post-stroke side effect that is typically characterized by involuntary episodes of crying or laughing, often in inappropriate situations.


Living with pseudobulbar affect can make you feel very confined (due to avoiding situations that may trigger you). If pseudobulbar affect is causing you to feel isolated or depressed, then you can talk to your doctor about medications that may help.

We also believe that practicing healthy emotions can help. Like all injuries to the brain, it takes repetitive practice to heal your brain and restore those skills. Since emotion is indeed a skill, healthy emotional practices can help!

Our stroke recovery book includes many different exercises that you can practice to help ‘rewire’ your brain for happiness.

3. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Honestly, not enough people are talking about PTSD after stroke.

Although PTSD is often associated with those who have fought in war or witnessed very traumatic events – stroke is considered a traumatic event, too. Stroke survivors are exactly that: survivors! And to overlook this aspect means overlooking an entire cause of emotional changes and mood swings after stroke.

Some of the characteristics of PTSD are irritability, anxiety, trouble sleeping, or outbursts of anger – among others. If you match any of those symptoms, then you may want to look into PTSD after stroke.


Interestingly, PTSD can be treated by increasing your emotional intelligence. By learning how to label your emotions during your mood swings, you can help increase your sense of control and ‘calm amidst the storm.’

Our article on PTSD after stroke explains this further.

4. Dealing with Grief

Grief is triggered by loss. And unfortunately, stroke often creates loss within a stroke survivor’s life (until your hard work pays off, of course!).

Not many people are aware that recovering from stroke also includes dealing with grief. So take some time to analyze where you think your mood swings are coming from, and see if you think they are caused by grief.

Grief operates in 5 stages that are often experienced out of order. The stages are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.


Time and therapy are some of the best treatments for grief.

Also, instead of resisting your grief or wishing that it would go away, try to surrender into it. Allow yourself to feel the emotions and honor the truth of what you’re going through. If you can do this, then the grief will pass much more quickly.

Our stroke recovery book covers the 5 stages of grief in greater detail – and it also equips you with other tools to help manage emotions after stroke.

5. Exhaustion

Finally, mood swings after stroke can be caused by a common and overlooked side effect of recovery: exhaustion.

During stroke recovery, your brain is using up a lot of your energy trying to heal itself – and it takes a real toll on your energy levels. If you crave lots of sleep after stroke, this is the reason why.

And if you don’t listen to your body and sleep when you want to sleep (or if your environment prevents you from getting the sleep that you want), then it can lead to irritability, outbursts, decreased patience, and, yes, mood swings (even if you’ve had 8 full hours of sleep!).


If you suffer from mood swings due to irritability, ask yourself if you’re listening to your body and getting all the sleep that your body wants.

If you aren’t, then make a point to take frequent power naps to restore your body’s energy and promote healing.

Also, if life prevents you from sleeping when you want to sleep (due to children, jobs, etc.) then take some time to see which tasks others can help you with.

Conquering the day’s tasks alone can be empowering, but if it’s causing you to miss out on the sleep that your body desperately needs right now, then a helping hand could make a world of difference.

We hope this guide has helped you understand what causes mood swings after stroke. How have you been coping with new emotions after stroke?

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