What you should know about depression after having a stroke

On average, someone in the United States has a stroke every forty seconds. Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States. More than 140,000 people die as a result of stroke each year. People over the age of 65 are most often affected by stroke, and accounts for about three-quarters of all strokes. And the risk for having a stroke more than doubles after 55. Did you also know that many people who have a stroke often suffer from depression afterwards? This is called post-stroke depression.

Post-stroke depression affects more than one-third of stroke survivors. And according to the National Institutes of Health, the condition is underdiagnosed. Therefore, it is important for people to be aware of post-stroke depression so that they know what they are dealing with and that they don’t have to live with it.

Post-stroke depression is defined as ‘a feeling of hopelessness that interferes with functioning and quality of life.’ If the condition goes untreated, it can take much longer to recover from the stroke. Depression after a stroke may not happen right away. It could take months or even years after a stroke to develop symptoms.

Signs and symptoms of post-stroke depression include:

·       Feeling sad, anxious and empty inside on a daily basis

·       Trouble sleeping

·       Eating much more or less than usual

·       Feeling helpless, hopeless, and worthless

·       Withdrawing from family and friends

·       Easily irritated

·       Fatigue

·       Trouble concentrating and remembering things

·       Thinking about suicide

·       Pains, aches, headaches, and/or digestive problems that do not go away

Fortunately, post-stroke depression can be treated. Treatment may include medication, mental health therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, or other types of therapy may be needed like speech or physical therapy.

Tips to cope with post-stroke depression:

·       Talk to a friend or family member about how you’re feeling

·       Eat a healthy diet

·       Join a support group

·       Set goals for treatment that are realistic

·       Learn some stress and anxiety management techniques

·       Stay active (physically and mentally)

·       Socialize within your community

·       Limit the amount of alcohol you drink

·       Avoid smoking

People who currently suffer from depression should also be aware that their risk for stroke may be higher than people who are not depressed. A recent study found that people who have depression for a long time may be at increased risk for stroke. The researchers found that people who were aged 50 and older who had symptoms of depression that lasted more than two years were twice as likely to have a stroke in the following two years, compared to people who did not have symptoms of depression.