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Dealing with Emotional Changes After a Stroke

Emotional changes often occur after a stroke. A survivor may respond one way today and weeks later, respond entirely different. Emotional changes usually occur because of the brain injury caused by the stroke or because of the individual trying to cope with any physical and mental limitations that occurred due to the stroke.

Emotional changes that may occur due to brain injury may be any of the following:

emotional-Rapid mood swings, which may consist of crying for no apparent reason and then quickly stopping or beginning to laugh.
-Crying or laughing that does not match their mood.
-Crying or laughing that lasts longer than what seems appropriate.
-Feelings of extreme sadness or depression.
-Hopelessness or helplessness.
-Changes in eating, sleeping, and thinking.

Symptoms of emotional changes may look like any of the following:

-Apathy (Does not display any emotions.)
-Lack of motivation
-Depression or sadness

Dealing with these changes in emotion can be difficult for the individual with stroke and for you as the caregiver.

The following are some helpful suggestions for you, the caregiver, to help deal with emotional changes:

-Offer frequent encouragement to the individual with stroke and avoid nagging.
-Encourage the individual with stroke to share feelings they are experiencing with you.
-Share the feelings you are experiencing with the discussion or support group.
-Always treat the person with respect and listen to his or her side of the story.
-Allow the person to choose among safe and appropriate choices, such as, what they would like to eat for lunch, what they would like to wear for the day, a choice between two activities.
-Be assertive and set limits and explain your concerns and feelings in a supportive way.

The following are some helpful suggestions for you and the stroke survivor to help deal with emotional changes:

-Tell yourself that your feelings are not "good" or "bad".
-"Talk" to yourself in a positive way; allow yourself to make mistakes.
-Set small goals towards recovery every week and celebrate all progress, no matter how small.
-Talk to an individual who is supportive and understanding about your feelings.
-Stay as physically active as you and the individual you care for are able. Talk to your health care provider about an exercise program that is safe for you and the individual you care for with stroke.
-Stay socially involved. Consider joining a support group.

For most individuals with stroke, changes in emotion lessen over time. If they do not appear to improve, notify your health care provider. These emotional changes may be treated successfully, especially depression, with medication and / or counseling.

Additional Information:

The following are some websites to provide you with more information about emotional changes.


American Heart Association. (2011). Changes in behavior and emotions after stroke. Retrieved from

American Stroke Association. (2009). Behavior changes after stroke. Retrieved from

American Stroke Association. (2001). Why am I so emotional? Retrieved from

Developed in 2001 by Gerri Rupp, MSN, RN, CNP at The University of Toledo for the Caring~Web©

Revised: 2010, 2012

Last Updated: 4/20/16