Dealing with Depression After Stroke

Living with depression can be quite a challenge, and especially for those affected by other serious health issues. Making matters more complicated is that, according to recent research, depression risk might spike following a stroke.

Hurting the Brain

This particular study was conducted by a team of Dutch researchers and released in 2016. For their report, the authors compared a group of stroke survivors against those with no history of stroke. After a two year period, they documented the incidence of stroke in both groupings. 

The authors noticed a significant difference in the prevalence of depression amongst the two groups. For those in the “no stroke history” group, the study found that under 8 percent developed depression. In contrast, this figure stood at 25 percent among those who had recovered from stroke. 

In summarizing the report’s findings, lead author Dr. Merete Osler stated that “the frequency of depression in stroke patients is also much higher as compared to patients experiencing other acute somatic events such as a heart attack. It seems that some imbalance in the brain induced by the stroke may cause stroke patients to be more susceptible to depression.”

Looking for Red Flags

The authors published their work in the journal JAMA Psychiatry. The study was accompanied by an editorial article written by Dr. Craig Anderson, executive director of the George Institute for Global Health at the University of Sydney, Australia. In his article, Anderson stressed the need for healthcare providers, patients and their friends and family to be vigilant for signs of depression. 

In an email to the Reuters news agency, Anderson wrote that doctors “know that it is very common – one in three stroke survivors suffer from some form of depression – and that it adversely impacts on recovery and increases the risks of recurrent stroke and other serious cardiovascular events and death.” Anderson further pointed out that “We know [depression] is difficult to diagnose because patients have problems with speech and memory, and their physical disability, and there is uncertainty how to best manage the condition.”

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