Personality changes after stroke can be confusing for both stroke survivors and caregivers.
To help you cope, we’ll discuss 5 different personality changes after stroke and ways to treat each one.
Some of our suggestions are quite unconventional, so with an open mind, let’s dig in.
1. Depression and Anxiety
Unfortunately, post-stroke depression and anxiety are the most common personality change after stroke – understandably so.
Stroke is a traumatic event that drastically changes one’s life. Tu understand why stroke can cause depression, try putting yourself in their shoes.
You’d have to relearn how to do basic self-care activities as if for the first time, and it can be frustrating. When you look at it this way, it’s easy to exercise empathy and see how stroke can cause depression.
Also, sometimes stroke affects the part of the brain that controls emotion, which can cause depression.
Luckily, there are many ways to cope with post-stroke depression.
How to Cope:
Talk therapy, support groups, and time are great ways to cope with depression after stroke.
Positive psychology is also a great approach because it focuses on rewiring the brain to think more positive thoughts.
Medication is a good treatment to consider when depression is affecting your motivation to pursue recovery.
It’s often best to combine medication with something that directly addresses the trauma, like talk therapy.
2. Pseudobulbar Affect (Emotional Lability / Emotionalism)
Do you or your loved one have random outbursts of emotion like laughter or crying that doesn’t seem to match the situation?
This is a post-stroke condition called pseudobulbar affect (PBA) that happens when stroke affects the emotion center of the brain.
Stroke survivors with PBA might laugh at the tiniest thing (or maybe something that isn’t funny at all) or cry at something that deserves a smile.
This can be very confusing for the stroke survivor and others in the situation.
If it doesn’t bother you, then great! But if you want it to stop, you can treat PBA with the following methods.
How to Cope:
In our unusual opinion, practice is the best treatment for PBA.
And when we say practice, we literally mean practicing your emotions. Since you can rewire your brain through repetition, you can apply the concept to your emotions. (That’s what the entire field of positive psychology is all about!)
Also, sometimes PBA goes away in time. Other times, medication is a good treatment when PBA is affecting your quality of life.
3. Anger, Apathy, Aggression, and Irritability
These are some of the most common emotional changes after stroke that can affect personality.
It can be difficult to tell if these changes are caused by changes to the brain or by the trauma of stroke. In these situations, it’s best to be patient and empathetic with the stroke survivor.
Life changes dramatically after stroke. And when you put yourself in a stroke survivor’s shoes, it’s pretty understandable to feel these emotions.
How to Cope:
When negative emotions are affecting your quality of life after stroke, medication can be a good option to consider.
At the same time, try working on rewiring your emotions too. Joint approaches like this can be very effective.
Whatever you decide, patience and compassion are essential during this time.
4. Poor Decision Making
Stroke can affect a stroke survivor’s ability to pay attention, make decisions, and exercise logic.
This is not because the stroke survivor has been “dumbed down” by stroke. Not at all!
Rather, stroke can affect one’s ability to exercise cognitive functions like before.
How to Cope:
When poor decision making happens after stroke, it’s best to be patient and give it time. This condition often improves on its own as the stroke survivor improves overall.
If you want to be proactive about it, you can try doing problem solving games (like Sudoku, for example) to rewire your brain’s problem solving/decision making ability.
Remember, you get better at what you repeatedly practice. By practicing decision making (with games or in real life), you’ll get better at decision making!
5. Positive Personality Changes
Not all personality changes after stroke are negative though.
While it’s less common, sometimes stroke affects someone’s predisposition in a positive way.
For example, sometimes the trauma of stroke causes a person to reevaluate their priorities and change their attitude towards family, work, and friends.
Because stroke is a life-threatening event, surviving a stroke can actually lead to an increased sense of fulfillment, happiness, and positive outlook.
How to Cope…
No need for this one 🙂
Dealing with Personality Changes After Stroke
And that wraps up the most common personality changes after stroke.
Often, the best treatments are time, patience, and practice.
Practice is the most unusual treatment, but it’s always worth a shot!
You may be interested in reading about The Science of Healing & Happiness to learn more.
What personality changes have you experienced after stroke? Please share your experience with us in the comments below!