A stroke is sudden and shocking and affects every part of your life. Most people who have had a stroke will experience some kind of emotional change afterwards.

Why does a stroke affect the way you feel?

Everyone’s experience of stroke is different, but for many people it feels like they’ve lost the life they had before.

Anyone who suffers a major loss will go through a range of emotions as they try to come to terms with it. Feelings of shock, denial, anger, grief and guilt are normal when you’re faced with such a major life change. 

It can be very difficult to cope with the emotions you have after stroke. But if you don’t acknowledge the way you’re feeling and find things that can help you deal with it, these emotions can become overwhelming and lead to problems. 

If I had a penny for the amount of times people say ‘you don't look like you've had a stroke’. On the plus side it must mean I look well but the downside is people don't have a clue what I’m going through daily.
John-Lee, stroke survivor

What kind of emotional problems happen after stroke?

People experience a wide range of emotions after stroke. All of them are entirely normal, but if they become overwhelming and you don’t get the support you need to help you deal with them, they can start to cause problems. 

Problems with depression or anxiety are very common after stroke. 

Many people also have problems controlling their mood and emotions. This is known as emotionalism (or emotional lability). It can mean that you cry or laugh more, sometimes for no reason at all. Some people start to swear when they hadn’t used to before.

One of the emotions that nearly all stroke survivors have to deal with is frustration. If you don’t deal with your frustrations properly, they can build up and make you irritable, which can be difficult to live with. It can also lead to anger and aggressive behaviour

Will they get better?

When emotions are overwhelming it can be easy to think that they’ll never get better. But they do. 

Feeling low, anxious or angry, or not being able to control your emotions are all very common, especially in the first six months. However, as time goes by, and you come to terms with the after-effects of your stroke, they are likely to get better.

Even if these feelings never completely go away, you’ll probably find them easier to live with over time. 

Are there treatments that can help?

There are lots of treatments and therapies that can help with your emotions after a stroke. So the best thing to do is to speak to your doctor, who will be able to explain what’s available.

Many people find that talking about the way they’re feeling helps them to be able to deal with it. So your doctor or specialist may recommend talking therapy to you. 

Talking therapy gives you time and space to talk about difficult feelings with a trained therapist. Unfortunately, talking therapy available through the NHS varies a lot from area to area. Speak to your doctor about what your options are.

Medication may also be able to help you with your emotions. Antidepressants are drugs that affect the chemicals in your brain and lift your mood.

Antidepressants don’t cure emotional problems, but they can help with the symptoms and make life feel easier. They don’t work for everyone and can also have side effects. So if it’s something you decide to try, you’ll need to persevere and work with your doctor to find what’s best for you. 

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