Depression is a common experience for stroke survivors. It’s often caused by biochemical changes in the brain. When the brain is injured, the survivor may not be able to feel positive emotions.
Depression can also be a normal psychological reaction to the losses from stroke.
Here are some of the common symptoms of depression:
- Persistent sad, anxious or “empty” mood
- Restlessness and irritability
- Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism, guilt, worthlessness or helplessness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities, including sex
- Decreased energy and fatigue, and feeling “slowed down”
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering and making decisions
- Insomnia, early-morning awakening or oversleeping
- Appetite and/or weight changes
- Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
Depression may make the rehabilitation process more challenging for survivors to do the hard work required. If five or more of these symptoms persist for longer than two weeks, depression may be the cause.
A good psychologist or psychiatrist can help. Treating depression not only improves the survivor’s mood, it boosts physical, cognitive and intellectual recovery. Social support is also crucial. Several studies show that depression goes hand in hand with lower levels of support. Look to your family, friends, a stroke support group or a combination of resources for help. Everyone involved in recovery needs to be aware of the survivor’s depression — and ready to respond to it. The right kind of treatment and support can help ease the pain and move the survivor down the road to recovery.