Feeling Emotional after a Stroke
Having had a stroke is very traumatic and stressful. It may happen suddenly but have long-
lasting effects that can change many aspects of a person’s life. Having an emotional response to
such a change is part of coping with the changes. Stroke survivors may respond with a range of
emotions. Some people may be very sad, while others may seem quite cheerful.
Emotions may change over time. Right after a stroke a person may respond one way yet weeks
later have a different response.
Knowing some things about your emotions will help you to learn ways to cope with the effects
of the stroke. It will also help others to understand what you are going through.
Why are these responses different after a stroke?
Changes in the way you are feeling have two causes.
• Biological: Some changes can be due to brain injury itself.
• Psychological: Some changes are because of the effects of the brain injury. All of the
changes you have to make as a stroke survivor can lead to changes in your emotions.
Which feelings are due to changes in the brain?
When a stroke occurs, the brain is injured. The emotional effects depend on where the brain was
If the structures that handle emotional states are injured, it changes the way the brain deals with
emotions. These two results are very common.
1. Mood Swings (also called emotional lability “reflex crying” or “labile mood”): This
often goes away or lessens over time.
• Rapid mood changes: A person may “spill over” into tears and then quickly stop
crying or may start laughing.
• Crying may not fit a person’s mood.
• Emotions may be hard to control soon after a stroke.
2. Post stroke depression
• Feelings of sadness, powerlessness, inadequacy, or irritability.
• Severe depression relates to left frontal areas.
• Mild depression relates to right posterior areas.
• This may respond to medicine.
What feelings are common after a stroke?
A stroke may affect a person’s life in many ways. This is very emotional for everyone involved.
The type of feelings and the extent of them are both related to the stroke and the previous coping
experience and style of the people involved. Common feelings are:
Many of these feelings are a natural part of adjusting to the changes brought about by the stroke.
Often, talking about the effects of the stroke and the feelings can help stroke survivors and their
families work through and process feelings. This is an important step in the process of this life
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright 10/2015. University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing HF#6305