Effects of stroke: Emotional effects

Posted on Nov 27, 2013 in Cardiovascular Health, Chronic Disease, Medical Rewind

Your stroke can affect you physically and emotionally.  Changes after your stroke may be mild or severe. Changes may be brief or long-lasting. This depends on the area of your brain affected by the stroke and how extensive the damage is.

Emotional changes

You may have emotional changes if the stroke damaged parts of your brain that control behavior. These changes may also be caused by your body’s reaction to the stroke.

Talk with your doctor if your emotional changes become severe or if they don’t go away. You may find help by talking with a counselor or psychotherapist.

Changes that may occur may include:

  • Anxiety: You may feel uneasy or anxious for no reason.
  • Depression: It is normal for you to feel sad after your stroke. But there’s a deeper sadness that may show up right after the stroke or many weeks later. Being dependent on others may cause you frustration. This may lead to feelings of helplessness, hopelessness and poor self-esteem. Depression may also be caused by chemical imbalances in your brain.Contact your doctor right away if you have any of the following symptoms:
    • feeling sad, blue or down in the dumps
    • losing interest in things you used to enjoy
    • feeling sluggish, restless or unable to sit still
    • feeling worthless or guilty
    • having an increase or decrease in appetite or weight
    • having problems concentrating, thinking, remembering or making decisions
    • having trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
    • having headaches
    • having aches and pains
    • having digestive problems
    • having sexuality problems
    • feeling pessimistic or hopeless
    • being anxious or worried
    • having relationship problems with your family, friends, or caregiver
    • having thoughts of death or suicide.
  • Emotional lability (limited control over your feelings and reactions): You may laugh, cry or get upset more easily or at the wrong times.
  • Loss of inhibition: Temper outbursts (verbal or physical) may be your only way to express your frustration of being unable to do simple, familiar things.
  • Mood swings: You can go from being happy to being sad or angry without warning. Family members will need to be understanding and patient. Mood swings may improve as you go through recovery.
  • Self-centeredness: You may be focused on your needs and not be paying attention to your caregiver or family.

Feeling Emotional after a Stroke 

Having had a stroke is very traumatic and stressful.  It may happen suddenly but have long-lasting effects that can change many aspects of a person’s life.  Having an emotional response to such a change is part of coping with the changes.  Stroke survivors may respond with a range of emotions.  Some people may be very sad, while others may seem quite cheerful.

Emotions may change over time.  Right after a stroke a person may respond one way yet weeks later have a different response.

Knowing some things about your emotions will help you to learn ways to cope with the effects of the stroke.  It will also help others to understand what you are going through.


Why are these responses different after a stroke?

Changes in the way you are feeling have two causes.

  • Biological.  Some changes can be due to brain injury itself.
  • Psychological.  Some changes are because of the effects of the brain injury.  All of the changes you have to make as a stroke survivor can lead to changes in your emotions.

Which feelings are due to changes in the brain?

When a stroke occurs, the brain is injured.  The emotional effects depend on where the brain was injured.

If the structures that handle emotional states are injured, it changes the way the brain deals with emotions.  These two results are very common.

Mood Swings (also called emotional lability “reflex crying” or “labile mood”).  This often goes away or lessens over time.

  • Rapid mood changes.  A person may “spill over” into tears and then quickly stop crying or may start laughing.
  • Crying may not fit a person’s mood.
  • Emotions may be hard to control soon after a stroke.

Post stroke depression.

  • Feelings of sadness, powerlessness, inadequacy, or irritability.
  • Severe depression relates to left frontal areas.
  • Mild depression relates to right posterior areas.
  • This may respond to medicine.


What feelings are common after a stroke?

A stroke affects a person’s life in many ways.  This is very emotional for everyone involved.  The type of feelings and the extent of them are both related to the stroke and the previous coping experience and style of the people involved..  Common feelings are:

  • Frustration
  • Anxiety
  • Anger
  • Apathy
  • Depression


Many of these feelings are a natural part of adjusting to the changes brought about by the stroke.  Often, talking about the effects of the stroke and the feelings can help stroke survivors and their families work through and process feelings.  This is an important step in the process of this life change.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies.