It’s very normal to experience strong emotions after a stroke. Difficult emotional reactions will usually get easier with time.
You may feel angry that you had a stroke. You may feel anxious about why you had a stroke, or about what is happening to you. You may feel frightened about the future.
You may also feel gratitude at survival, hope for recovery and love for family and friends.
Sudden mood swings
A common impact of stroke is emotional lability, also known as the pseudobulbar affect. This is where you have emotional responses that don’t seem to make much sense, or are out of proportion.
Sometimes you may cry or laugh uncontrollably, even though you don’t know why you are doing it. As we generally pride ourselves on keeping our emotions in check, especially in social situations, this effect of stroke can be very challenging.
It can help to be aware of anything that triggers emotional lability. This will be different for everyone. Things to look out for include tiredness, stress, anxiety and noisy, overcrowded environments. Being around emotional people, situations or events can trigger lability, as can being put under pressure.
For more information
See the Stroke Foundation’s fact sheet on Emotional and personality changes.
Depression and anxiety
After your stroke you may experience more long-lasting emotional difficulties, including depression and anxiety. These are common at any stage after a stroke and can be treated.
Depression is more than just sadness or a low mood, it’s a serious illness that can have severe effects on both physical and mental health. You may be experiencing depression if, for more than two weeks, you have felt sad, down or miserable most of the time, or lost pleasure in most of your usual activities.
While everyone feels anxious from time to time, for some people these anxious feelings are overwhelming and not easily controlled. Anxiety is more than just feeling stressed, it’s a serious condition that makes it hard to cope with daily life.
If you are concerned, talk to your doctor or other health professional. Depression and anxiety can go on for weeks or months if left untreated. Research shows having depression can slow down the recovery from your stroke making it hard to concentrate or stay motivated.
Depression and anxiety are treatable. Recovery is common. Treatment can vary from person to person. It may include lifestyle changes like exercise and diet, or psychological therapies. Medication may also be prescribed.
For more information
See the Stroke Foundation’s fact sheet on Depression and anxiety.
Grief and loss
Even while you work on your goals, it’s normal to feel a sense of loss after stroke. This video talks about giving yourself time to grieve and seeking out support from people who understand and who can help.
Once you have watched this video, find out more:
Most people have strong emotions after a stroke.
You may feel angry that you had a stroke.
You may be worried about what is happening to you.
You may be frightened about the future.
There are positive feelings too.
You may be happy to survive and hopeful about recovery.
You may feel love for your family and friends.
Recovering from stroke
Difficult emotions get easier with time.
Sometimes a stroke will cause mood problems that last a long time.
These can be treated.
Treatments can include:
- lifestyle changes like exercise
- seeing a psychologist
Sudden mood swings
You may have sudden mood swings or uncontrollable emotions.
You may cry or laugh for no reason.
This is called emotional lability or the pseudobulbar effect.
Many people have depression after a stroke.
Depression is when you feel sad most of the time. This goes on for more than two weeks.
You lose interest in things you usually like to do.
You also may have:
- appetite or weight changes
- problems sleeping
- poor concentration
- trouble thinking.
You may feel very worried but not know why.
You can also have sudden feelings of panic and fear.
You may be anxious about thoughts you can’t control.
Feeling sad after a stroke
You can feel sad after a stroke.
You can feel grief.
You can feel like you have lost your old life.
Watch the video about feeling sad.
Find out about who can help you.
Find out more about feelings after a stroke.
Depression is when you feel sad for a long time.
Find out more about depression from our: