Depression After a stroke

Stroke survivors often encounter unwelcome mood changes after a stroke such as anxiety and agitation. But depression is by far the most common mood that stroke survivors have to confront.

What is Depression?

Depression is different from sadness. Sadness is usually short-lived and caused by a specific event- such as the death of a pet or being passed up for a promotion. Depression comprises strong internal feelings as well as outward symptoms.

Depression is more persistent than sadness and it can seem overwhelming. Many people describe depression in terms such as a ‘deep pit’ or a ‘dark cloud.’ Depression is caused by a disruption of some of the chemicals that control brain function and depression may even be produced by alterations in the structure of the brain itself.

Symptoms of Depression

Some of the symptoms of depression include a lack of motivation, a negative and pessimistic outlook, crying, trouble sleeping or sleeping too much, fatigue even after only minimal exertion and lack of appetite, or rarely, increased appetite. Often apathy, or the sense of indifference towards people and events, is a precursor to depression.

Feelings Associated with Depression

Emotions that you may feel if you are depressed include sadness, hopelessness, loneliness and despair. It is difficult to escape from the deep feelings of depression, even if you can overcome the outward symptoms.

Why Does a Stroke Cause Depression?

A stroke can cause depression for several reasons. One reason is the sudden realization that good health is not guaranteed or that you are getting ‘old.’ A stroke is a wake up call and it can trigger a range of emotions, from gratefulness to anger to depression. Your emotional response may undergo several transformations over time.

It is important to recognize your depression so that you can try to get help through an effective method such as counseling.

Another reason for depression is the disability that occurs after a stroke. You might have lost some physical or cognitive skills. You may be unable to drive or work or even walk. Activities of daily living such as swallowing or using the bathroom may be changed after a stroke. Of course depression is understandable when dealing with such an extreme life change. However, over time, even patients who suffer from major disability can learn to appreciate and maximally utilize the abilities that are preserved.

And a third reason for depression after a stroke is that the some types of strokes affects regions of the brain that control mood.

Futile Ways of Coping With Depression

Some people try to distract themselves by keeping exceptionally busy or by focusing on anger or by participating in destructive behavior. When people construct a sense of internal distraction by maintaining a full agenda, or ruminating on angry thoughts, it can temporarily conceal the unpleasant feelings associated with depression.

These systems of ‘self-medication’ are subconscious ways hide the pain of depression. The problem is that many of these methods are harmful, and the effects of masking depression are only temporary.

Effective Ways of Coping With Depression

Depression often produces more depression. The more a person is depressed, the more the body becomes used to producing the chemicals that contribute to depression and the more the body learns to respond to those chemicals.

Ways to cope include joining a support group or getting professional help from a therapist through counseling. You doctor might suggest lifestyle changes, such as decreasing your alcohol use, changing your diet or getting more physical activity. Sometimes a medical checkup can reveal a medical cause for depression- such as a hormone imbalance or a sleeping disorder. Some medications can produce depression as a side effect and your doctor might consider switching to another medication if you are experiencing depression as a side effect. Anti-depressant medication can help alleviate symptoms of depression.

Final Word

A stroke can cause depression. It is important to get help for depression because it is a treatable condition. It is also crucial not to take the depression personally if your friend or family member suffers from depression. Instead, try to help guide your loved one to get professional treatment for depression after a stroke.

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