Stroke and depression

Stroke and depression

Depression in stroke survivors is common. But there are many ways to get help.

A certain amount of depression is a normal part of the grieving process that usually follows stroke, but depression can be severe enough to affect functioning, and can slow down the rehabilitation of the person who has the stroke or make a caregiver unable to adequately look after the person. Most of the information on this page and other helpful advice can be found in our free Life After Stroke book.

It's estimated that one in three stroke survivors experiences depression in the five years following stroke (US National Stroke Association)

Warning signs

  • Feeling sad, hopeless, helpless, worthless
  • Thinking of suicide
  • Negative self-image
  • Loss of appetite or markedly increased appetite
  • Loss of sexual drive
  • Weight loss
  • Negative thoughts about the future
  • Poor concentration
  • Low energy
  • Waking very early in the morning
  • Irritability
  • Loss of interest in others
  • Indecision.

SupportThere is a fine line between the stress, tiredness and feeling ‘down’ to be expected after a stroke, and more serious depression, so it is important to fully discuss depressed feelings with the doctor. Expert help and advice can make an amazing difference.

What helps

Counselling at an early stage can be helpful.

Advice from a psychiatrist can be invaluable in planning treatment.

The person with depression can also do a great deal for themselves, for example by:

  • recognising the need to accept help
  • dealing with stress
  • understanding that depression is not a ‘weakness’, but a health disorder
  • recognising that depression is part of the grieving process and that being depressed is a stage in the recognition of how things have changed
  • talking about their feelings and getting more understanding of their psychological state
  • changing the depressed behaviour (e.g. making an effort to get going when they don’t feel like it, filling an hour with a demanding task or entertaining activity that leaves no room for depressed thoughts). This is a way of controlling the depression instead of letting it take charge. Once the initial effort is made, the hardest part is over.

Joining a social rehabilitation group, such as a stroke club, or rejoining old activities and interests (e.g. attending concerts or sports events, bowling club, senior citizens’ club, RSA, etc) will help to alleviate depression, but caregivers may need to take the initiative and take the person along at first in the face of protests.

Talk to our Community Stroke Advisors for more information.

The numbers below can help too.

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

Please help us today

Stroke devastates lives. 
Help us rebuild the lives of New Zealanders who experience the impact of stroke. Together, we can give them hope.