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Mood Swings and Depression After a Stroke

After a stroke, a patient may feel sudden or extreme emotions. Sadness and depression are common. These feelings may be due to damage in the brain. Or they may be a response to the person’s awareness of what has happened.

Coping with Mood Swings

Woman in wheelchair holding tissue to eyes while crying. Man, woman, and baby in background.
Some patients may have problems controlling their emotions.

One common effect of stroke is lability. This problem makes people less able to control their emotions. Lability may cause a sudden mood shift that is out of context with what is going on. A patient may suddenly cry or laugh.

You Can Help

  • Stay calm. Accept the behavior and go on with what you were doing.

  • If the patient apologizes, acknowledge the behavior as a result of the stroke.

  • Do not criticize.

  • Tell the healthcare provider if this problem becomes frequent or severe. 

Dealing with Depression

Man in bathroom with glass of water, putting pill in mouth.
Medication may help depression.

A person may feel depressed after having a stroke. This may be due to brain damage. Changes in body image and grieving for lost skills, such as speech or freedom of movement, may also cause depression.

You Can Help

  • Ask the healthcare provider whether medication can help reduce the depression.

  • Keep the person active. Play games, watch TV, or listen to music together.

  • Ask friends to visit if the person is willing to see them.

  • Do not discount depression by telling the patient to “cheer up.”

Author: StayWell Custom Communications
Last Annual Review Date: 5/15/2011
Copyright © The StayWell Company, LLC. except where otherwise noted.
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