Depression and anxiety after stroke
Recognising the signs of depression and anxiety after stroke, and how to get help. Depression and anxiety are common, especially after experiencing a stroke, however, help is available.
We’ve created a guide to help you navigate your way through depression and/or anxiety after stroke. You can find English and translated resources here: Free Resources
Around half of all stroke survivors experience significant depression or anxiety in the first year following their stroke. It is also common to experience both depression and anxiety at the same time. These experiences can be upsetting and overwhelming, however, there are proven ways to manage them and to start to feel better.
Recognising signs of depression and anxiety after stroke
Depression or anxiety can be ‘hidden’ in the effects of stroke and difficult to recognise. It may help to look out for some key signs to decide whether you, or someone close to you, may be experiencing depression and/or anxiety.
Signs can show up in all aspects of life and can be physical, mental, social or spiritual. Here are some signs to look out for:
· feeling tired and lacking energy
· eating too much or too little
· sleeping too much or too little
· trouble relaxing
· losing interest in things that were once enjoyed
· worrying that awful things will happen
· feeling angry, sad or unmotivated
· feeling nervous and anxious often
· difficulty thinking and concentrating
· feeling shame or failure
· feeling like other people don’t understand
· wanting to be left alone
· getting irritated by others
· feeling empty and lonely
· feeling there is no purpose to life.
Getting help and ways to treat depression and anxiety
Our team of Community Stroke Advisors are always here to help you. They can listen and provide advice and practical support. Find out how to get in contact with your local Community Stroke Advisor here or call our national office for more information on 0800 78 76 53.
It also helps to speak to someone you trust – a friend, whanau member or elder.
Visit your family doctor or primary care nurse. They can talk to you about what you are going through and how to manage it – with talking therapy (counselling) or medication – or a combination of both.
If stroke has caused communication and understanding difficulties, it may be helpful to use the services of a speech and language therapist before talking with a counsellor or psychologist.
Talking therapies involve discussing the challenges you are experiencing in your life with a trained mental health professional – usually a counsellor or psychologist. They can provide strategies and support clients to find solutions to overcome these challenges.
Antidepressant medication is the most common medical treatment for depression and/or anxiety. It is usually most effective in combination with talking therapy. Antidepressant medications usually take a few weeks to work. Some people may experience side effects. It is important to consult your doctor or a health professional before you stop taking prescribed medication as you may experience withdrawal symptoms.
Some people find complementary and alternative medicines and treatments helpful for depression and/or anxiety. Examples are acupuncture or rongoā (traditional Māori healing). Talk to your doctor or primary healthcare nurse first if you want to try these medicines or treatment.
Hear from other stroke survivors about how they handled their depression and anxiety in our video below.
Further support and other useful links
· Depression Helpline to speak to a trained counsellor: 0800 111 757
· Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
· Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
· Samaritans: 0800 726 666
· Youthline: 0800 376 633
· Alcohol Drug Helpline: 0800 787 797
· National Telehealth service: Free call 1737
· Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.