If suffering a stroke weren’t difficult enough, survivors often face physical complications such as pneumonia, bed sores, falls and blood clots in the extremities. You may be surprised that none of these examples are even the most common complication of stroke. What is you may ask? Depression. Some sources report the incidence of post-stroke depression as high as 30-40%. At least one out of three survivors! As a society we often say, times are tough and things will get better; keep your chin up; or it’s just the blues, it will go away with time. But what about when it doesn’t?
The social stigma of mental illness in our world is a huge barrier to psychiatric care. The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that of the 450 million people who suffer from mental illnesses globally, almost 60% do not obtain care. For a stroke survivor this not only affects psychological well-being, but also physical and cognitive recovery from stroke. Despite global efforts by the World Health Organization that stress the importance of mental wellness, post-stroke depression often goes untreated. It is crucial for the individual, the caregiver and others involved in the stroke survivor’s recovery to advocate for management if symptoms arise.
What are the symptoms of depression?
Pessimism, hopelessness, guilt, worthlessness
Loss of pleasure or interest in activities that were once enjoyed
Decreased energy, slowed activity
Restlessness of irritability
Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions
Inability to sleep or oversleeping
Appetite or weight changes
Thoughts of death or suicide
The general rule is if five or more of these symptoms exist for greater than two weeks, they may be caused by depression. Depression after stroke is commonly attributed to losses associated with the stroke. However, there also may be biochemical changes in the brain that increase the chances of this happening. For this reason some people require medical treatment of their depression. Don’t tackle it on your own. Symptoms of depression are serious and need to be discussed with a physician to prevent setbacks in physical and cognitive recovery from stroke.
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