Understanding How Post-Stroke Depression Affects Your Loved One

The Stroke Connection team knows that it can sometimes be hard for family and friends to understand how profoundly post-stroke depression may be impacting a survivor. We encourage you to share this quick-reference sheet with the people in your life to help them understand. Download the PDF to print and share.

Transcript of fact sheet PDF: 

Understanding How Post-Stroke Depression Affects Your Loved One

Just because someone is home from the hospital does not mean that all is normal and they are running on all cylinders. Their brains have been injured, and it takes time and the compassion and patience of friends and family for them to recover.

It is important to let survivors respond to this situation in their own way, without trying to meet the expectations of others who have not experienced a brain injury. It may not be possible to understand how they feel.

What to Understand About Post-Stroke Depression

  • It is extremely common. Studies document that between one-third and two-thirds of stroke survivors experience depression.
  • It can result from the stroke lesion itself. It may also be a reaction to their stroke deficits. Or it may be both.
  • It can stymie recovery because it may prevent them from participating in therapy.
  • It increases risk of another stroke.
  • It generally responds well to treatment, which typically is a combination of medication and talk therapy.
  • It is not a character flaw or moral failing.
  • It is unlikely to go away by itself.

Things your loved one may be thinking and feeling when experiencing post-stroke depression:

  • “I don’t have the words to tell you what’s wrong. I really don’t, and I feel bad about it.”
  • “I’m not in control and I’m confused.”
  • “I feel like a burden. I was independent. I’m not now and it makes me sad.”
  • “I don’t know what would help me feel better. But keep loving me.”
  • “I feel unlovable. I don’t love myself. Touch heals. Hug me.”
  • “Life can’t go back to the way it was and neither can I. I’m changed. I didn’t choose to change. I don’t want to change. I can’t deal with any more change.”

What Can Help

Family members and friends can help by coming from a position of compassion and understanding, rather than the expectation that everything should be better. Stroke support groups help both survivors and caregivers accept the new normal that stroke has brought to their family.

See also: 

Helping Others Understand: Post-stroke Depression


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Stroke Rehabilitation

Making the Best Decisions at Discharge After Stroke

The type of rehabilitation and support systems a survivor receives at discharge can strongly influence health outcomes and recovery. In this, the first part of a two-part series on stroke rehab, we offer guidance for the decision-making process required when it’s time to leave the hospital.

What to Expect from Outpatient Rehab

After stroke, about two-thirds of survivors receive some type of rehabilitation. Outpatient therapy may consist of Several types of therapy. Whether a patient is referred to inpatient or outpatient therapy depends on the level of medical care required.

What to Expect in Stroke Rehab

Following a stroke, about two-thirds of survivors receive some type rehabilitation. In this second of our two-art series, we want to alleviate some of the mystery, fear and anxiety around the inpatient rehab part of the stroke recovery journey.
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AHA-ASA Resources

The Support Network

When faced with challenges recovering from heart disease or stroke, it’s important to have emotional support. That is why we created a network to connect patients and loved ones with others during their journey.

Stroke Family Warmline

The Warmline connects stroke survivors and their families with an ASA team member who can provide support, helpful information or just a listening ear.

Let's Talk About Stroke Patient Information Sheets

Let's Talk About Stroke is a series of downloadable patient information sheets, created by the American Stroke Association, that presents information in a question-and-answer format that's brief, easy to follow and easy to read.

Request Free Stroke Information Packets

Fill out this online form to request free information about a variety of post-stroke topics.

Caregiver Guide to Stroke

The Caregiver Guide to Stroke is meant to help caregivers better navigate the recovery process and the financial and social implications of a stroke.

Tips for Daily Living Library

This volunteer-powered library gathers tips and ideas from stroke survivors, caregivers and healthcare professionals all over the country who’ve created or discovered adaptive and often innovative ways to get things done!

Stroke Support Group Finder

To find a group near you, simply enter your ZIP code and a mile radius. If your initial search does not pull up any groups, try
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Stroke & Parts of the Brain

When Stroke Affects the Parietal Lobe

The parietal lobe helps us make sense of sensory information, like where our bodies and body parts are in space, our sense of touch, and the part of our vision that deals with the location of objects.

When Stroke Affects the Frontal Lobe

Of the four lobes that make up the cerebral cortex, the frontal lobe is the largest. It plays a huge role in many of the functions that make us human — memory, language, movement, judgment, abstract thinking.

When Stroke Affects the Temporal Lobe

The temporal lobe has several functions, mainly involved with memory, perception and language.

When Stroke Affects the Brain Stem

The brain stem serves as a bridge in the nervous system. It sits at the top of the spinal column in the center of the brain. When a stroke happens there, it can cause a few different deficits and, in the most severe cases, can lead to locked-in syndrome.

When Stroke Affects the Thalamus

The thalamus can be thought of as a "relay station," receiving signals from the brain’s outer regions (cerebral cortex), interpreting them, then sending them to other areas of the brain to complete their job.
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