Emotions and behaviour can change following a stroke. Approximately one third of all stroke survivors experience some emotional problems. These problems can result in depression, anger, frustration, feelings of loss and denial. There may be communication disorders which will include aphasia – to do with verbal abilities and auditory comprehension where they are unable to speak or to read, write or comprehend numbers. Or there may be motor speech disorders with slurred or garbled speech. All of these difficulties will affect the emotions creating sadness and possibly depression.
Extreme emotions will interfere with the rehabilitation process. Emotions are hard to control, partly because of chemical changes within the brain caused by the stroke. It is also a reaction to the challenges of dealing with the effects of a stroke. There can be rapid mood changes also causing crying or laughing inappropriately, feelings of hopelessness, changes in eating and sleeping, anger, anxiety and apathy.
Anxiety causes sleep disturbances. It may also cause difficulty with concentration. The stroke sufferer may avoid going out in public or even seeing friends. Irritability, another problem, can also cause difficulties with concentration and the stroke sufferer may tire more quickly.
Apathy is a dangerous emotion for a stroke survivor. It is lack of enthusiasm, motivation, listlessness and no interest in anything. For the stroke sufferer, if they have apathy they will likely not work diligently at rehabilitation. This is detrimental to their long-term health or for a positive outcome with the chance of fewer disabilities.
It is important for the stroke impaired to find ways to relax, i.e.: soak in a warm bath, listen to calm music, meditate or go for a walk. Writing down worries or talking to a friend or family member may also help. However, if it continues for quite a while and all else has failed, it may be necessary for them to see their family doctor. Medication may also be necessary.
Stroke recovery groups are also good for the stroke survivor because often talking about the effects of their stroke with others who are going through the same thing can help. Acknowledging their feelings will help them to deal with their emotions also. It will be important for the stroke-impaired person to be as informed as possible because the more they know, the more they will be able to help themselves.
Emotions following a stroke are often closer to the surface and will increase in intensity relative to the situation, perhaps summoning feelings that had not bothered them prior to their stroke. As upsetting as it is for the stroke survivor to experience these chaotic emotions, in almost all cases, these intense feelings will go and eventually they will feel more like themselves..
Problems with emotions following a stroke can result in personality changes. But as the stroke-impaired person begins to feel more like themselves, these changes often will cease to exist.