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Mood Swings After Stroke: Why Do They Happen & How to Cope

how to overcome mood swings after stroke

Do you or a loved one suffer from mood swings after stroke – even if you weren’t necessarily a ‘moody’ person before?

If so, this article is for you.

Causes of Mood Swings After Stroke

The best way to understand the cause of mood swings after stroke is to put yourself in the shoes of a stroke survivor.

After a stroke, survivors are left with often severe stroke side effects that may have affected their ability to talk, walk, and live independently.

These side effects might have taken away precious abilities and hobbies that once comprised the survivor’s identity.

As a result, stroke survivors often struggle with emotions like depression, anxiety, and even PTSD.

That’s a lot of loss to cope with — so it’s easier to find compassion for mood swings after stroke when you can see their struggles.

Overcoming Mood Swings After Stroke

The best way to cope with mood swings after stroke is to look at the particular emotion you or your loved one might be experiencing.

Here are 5 ways you can overcome mood swings after stroke:

1. Use Positive Psychology to Overcome Depression and Anxiety

overcome mood swings after stroke with positive psychology

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.


A Western approach to treating post-stroke depression is with medication. If you want to go this route, then talk with your doctor.

An alternative approach to treating post stroke depression involves the use of positive psychology, which is all about rewiring the brain to develop a more positive state of being.

Furthermore, support is extremely helpful during this time. If you have the resources, it’s a great idea to see a therapist.

You can also join our free stroke support group on Facebook here.

2. Rewire Your Emotional Brain

rewire the brain to improve moods after stroke

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.


Like post-stroke depression, Western medicine can help treat pseudobulbar affect with medication.

We have also written about a more natural (and much weirder) treatment for pseudobulbar affect that applies positive psychology to remedy this problem.

The article explains how it might be possible to rewire your emotions by practicing them.

And if you want a bigger resource, you can check out Healing and Happiness After Stroke, which focuses on the emotional side of recovery.

3. Boost Emotional Intelligence to Overcome PTSD

ptsd may cause mood swings 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. Give Yourself Time to Grieve

sometimes mood swings after stroke go away with time

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 after stroke goes through 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 remedies 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. Don’t Overlook Exhaustion

exhaustion could be the cause of mood swings after stroke

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.

Lack of sleep can lead to irritability, outbursts, decreased patience, and, yes, mood swings.


Get some much needed sleep. And if sleeping disorders (like insomnia or sleep apnea) are keeping you up at night, then talk to your doctor about treatments that may help.

Don’t be afraid of taking LOTS of naps throughout the day — a recovering brain needs it!

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

Leave a comment for us in the section below!

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More Ways to Recover with Flint Rehab:

Step 1: Download Free Rehab Exercises

stroke exercise ebook

Step 2: Discover Award-Winning Neurorehab Tools

Step 3: See What Other Survivors Are Saying