Today, we’re going to fill you in on the 5 most common behavior changes after stroke.
If you’re a stroke survivor or caregiver, we hope it gives you the reassurance and guidance you need during this time of transition.
Types of Behavior Changes After Stroke
Many behavior changes happen because of the emotional impact of stroke. Stroke is a traumatic event, and it can create depression, anxiety, and other moodiness.
Often, these emotions settle down once the person adjusts to his/her new life. During that adjustment phase, here are some common behavioral changes that happen:
1. Mood Swings After Stroke
There’s a spectrum of moodiness that can affect a stroke survivor’s behavior.
Sometimes, the moodiness is just the result of trying to cope with the (often intense) challenges of stroke recovery.
Other times, the moodiness is caused by damage to the emotion center of the brain, resulting in a condition known as emotional lability.
These new emotions can cause changes in behavior.
Ways to cope: Positive psychology, meditation, talk therapy, medication, ample rest, and good nutrition
2. Inappropriate or Irrational Behavior After Stroke
Some caregivers become worried when their loved one acts inappropriately or irrationally after stroke.
These changes are likely caused by the after math of stroke. Perhaps the part of the brain that controls reasoning was impaired.
Most of the time, this goes away in time. Other times, you may need to participate in cognitive training to rewire the brain.
When inappropriate or irrational behavior becomes severe after stroke, it may be a sign of “stroke dementia.” This is formally known as vascular dementia, and it impairs reasoning, planning, judgement, and memory after stroke.
When a stroke survivor develops dementia, it can affect behavior. For example, lack of short-term memory can result in “forgetful” behavior.
It’s important to know that not all cognitive impairments are a sign of dementia.
Ways to cope: Cognitive training, meditation, medication, and a healthy diet for stroke patients
3. Strange Behavior After Stroke
Sometimes, strange behavior happens because stroke recovery sucks up a lot of mental juice.
The “normal” activities of daily life actually take a lot for a stroke survivor to process and respond to.
A normal day can feel quite exhausting, and this can lead to strange behavior.
It’s important to have empathy for stroke survivors during recovery.
Remember that things that are “normal” to you (if you’re a caregiver) are actually exhausting for a recovering brain to digest.
Ways to cope: Cognitive training, ample rest, meditation, and talk therapy
4. Forgetfulness and Neglectfulness
Sometimes stroke affects memory and attention. This can cause a stroke survivor to act forgetful or neglectful.
Forgetfulness is often the result of impaired cognitive function after stroke. It can improve through time and practice.
Neglectfulness could be a sign of hemineglect after stroke, where a stroke survivor does not notice things in their environment on the affected side.
For example, if you approach someone who had a right-brain stroke on their left side, they might not even notice you.
One-sided neglect can also go away with time and practice.
Ways to cope: Memory training, attention training, and meditation
5. Anger, Depression, and Anxiety
Lastly, negative emotions like anger, depression, and anxiety are unfortunately common after stroke.
These emotions often happen as a stroke survivor tries to cope with their new life.
When you put yourself in a stroke survivor’s shoes, it’s easy to see why negative emotions could bubble up.
You’re essentially relearning how to perform activities of daily living as if for the first time, and it can be very frustrating.
Exercise compassion for stroke survivors going through the recovery process. And for all you caregivers out there, don’t forget to take care of yourself too!
Ways to cope: Positive psychology, mindfulness, meditation, and medication
Positive Psychology May Improve Behavior Changes After Stroke
Lastly, we’d like to point out that not all behavioral changes after stroke are bad.
Sometimes stroke affects people in good ways. Perhaps they have a change in perspective; or perhaps the part of their brain that once caused extreme anxiety has been affected – in a good way.
Because every stroke is different, every stroke survivor will be affected in different ways. Some exude positive behavior, others exude less favorable behavior.
Luckily, there are ways to rewire the brain to find the bright side of things again. Read The Science of Healing and Happiness to learn more.