2012 ISSUE 1
Emotional Impact of Stroke
Even when physical effects diminish, stroke can have a surprising impact
on emotional wellbeing.
the Way out of Post-Stroke Depression
In 2006, clinical social worker Flora Ingenhousz noticed during yoga
practice that her right arm wouldn’t stretch out and there was a long delay
between her thoughts and actions. Her husband drove her to the emergency room
where a CT scan revealed a bleed in her left frontal lobe; she’d had a
After months of physical, occupational and speech
therapy, Ingenhousz was fortunate to have no physical residuals. But when her
therapies ended she noticed the onset of post-stroke depression, a common
factor with strokes affecting the brain’s left hemisphere.
sought out antidepressant medication and a psychotherapist, and became active
with the Montgomery County Stroke Association in Silver Spring, MD, serving on
the board and using her own psychotherapy background to lead support groups for
stroke survivors and caregivers. Ingenhousz has since overcome post-stroke
depression and hasn’t had a depressive episode in more than two years.
support group work, Ingenhousz met nearly 100 stroke survivors. “Everyone had
his or her own story and every month I learned about yet another way stroke can
affect us—and how survivors cope,” she says. “Most of all, I learned about the
resilience of the human spirit.”
What Tears Reveal
Stroke survivor Donna Pogue had no
idea her uncontrollable crying had anything to do
with stroke. Pogue, 59, had a stroke in 2010 and now struggles with
pseudobulbar affect (PBA), a medical condition that causes unpredictable crying
first noticed something felt off when she went to her fitness class and her
heart rate was very high. Emergency room doctors couldn’t find anything wrong
and sent her home the next evening. She woke up to hot flashes and double
images of her husband bringing her coffee in bed.
“I called my best friend and started crying and crying,” she
says. “She said ‘what is wrong with you?’ I said ‘nothing…everything,’” Pogue
recalls. Giving in to her husband’s requests to go to the hospital, she tried
to stand up and her right leg collapsed.
Doctors determined that clots had formed around the wire
running from her built-in defibrillator to her heart, causing a stroke. She
quickly regained function on her right side and says her biggest challenge
today is remembering certain words and crying uncontrollably due to PBA. The
condition impacts an estimated one million people in the U.S. and, Pogue says,
is one of stroke’s lesser-known residuals.
Pogue says just looking at baby pictures of her kids will
trigger an episode and that the best coping mechanism is distraction. “I’m
learning to live with it,” she adds. “I try to stay positive and not think any