Stroke depression is a relatively new diagnosis. Stroke refers to a blood clot in the brain that causes an imbalance of oxygen and blood flow. When the flow is out of balance, cells are deprived of oxygen and other nutrients essential for their survival.

A stroke in the left hemisphere usually affects the left side of the brain, while a stroke in the right hemisphere generally affects the right side of the brain. Stroke depression can be difficult to diagnose. Post-stroke depression (PSD) has been identified by psychiatrists for over 100 years, but research did not start until the late 1970s.

There have been many case reports of

  • Emotional upset
  • Personality changes
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Irritability
  • Memory problems
  • Nightmares
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts

In patients who suffered from PSD following their stroke. However, there are no agreed-upon criteria for defining or diagnosing PSD. This may be because some of these symptoms mimic the early stages of depression, such as feelings of hopelessness or social isolation.

There are several groups that have reported a significant association between stroke and depression

These include

  • Women
  • Patients with mild or moderate ischemic heart disease
  • Patients with hemiplegia or hemiparesis of the knee or hip
  • Patients with ischemic heart rhythm (IHRT)
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Ischemic heart disease is associated with a three-fold increase in the incidence of depression. Patients with IHRT have a two-fold increased risk. The association between IHRT and depression was more robust in women than in men.

Other symptoms that can occur in patients who have had a stroke and are later diagnosed with depression include

  • Substance abuse
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Hopelessness
  • Decreased social function
  • Fatigue
  • Worthlessness

In addition, patients with depression who become isolated or do not participate in any form of social activity are at a greater risk of developing suicidal thoughts or behaviours. Stroke survivors who also experience symptoms of suicide are at especially high risk.

Post Stroke Depression

Patients can experience symptoms of depression that may go undetected or untreated for long periods of time. The symptoms can negatively affect the quality of life. It is important to note that even though mood disorders are linked to more serious medical conditions, it is possible for them to be successfully treated in the treatment centers.

Many times, patients who experience depression may need additional counselling to address their feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. Some research has shown that there may be a genetic component to some forms of poststroke depression.

There is some evidence to support the hypothesis that people who have a family history of depression are more likely to develop symptoms of this disorder. However, there is still no strong evidence that genetics directly cause strokes. Other research indicates that both cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disorders may play a role in the development of post-stroke depression.

Recovery from depression is not easy, and it can take several months or years to effectively return to the daily functioning

Family support is very important during this time. This will allow caregivers to become familiar with the daily routines of their loved ones and to start to develop a sense of familiarity and trust. Many caregivers are surprised at how much they actually begin to trust their loved ones, once they begin to open up and share their own feelings and concerns about the recovery process.

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