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Identifying Depression in Someone With Stroke and Managing It

What Is Depression?

Depression is a serious medical condition that affects thoughts, feelings, and the ability to function in everyday life. Depression can occur at any age. It is estimated that almost 10 percent of American adults (about 19 million people age 18 and older), experience some form of depression every year. Although available therapies alleviate symptoms in over 80 percent of people who are treated, less than half of people with depression get the help they need.
Depression results from abnormal functioning of the brain, and the causes of depression are currently a matter of intense research. An interaction between genetic predisposition and life history appear to determine a person's level of risk. Episodes of depression may be triggered by:
  • Stress
  • Difficult life events
  • Side effects of medications
  • Other environmental factors.
Whatever its origins, depression can limit the energy needed to keep focused on treatment for other disorders, such as a stroke.

Treatment for Stroke and Depression

Depression can affect mind, mood, body, and behavior. While there are many different treatments for depression, a trained professional will design the treatment plan based on the circumstances of the individual case.
Prescription antidepressant medications are generally well tolerated and safe for people recovering from a stroke. However, there are possible interactions among some medications and side effects that require careful monitoring. Therefore, stroke survivors who develop depression, as well as people in treatment for depression who subsequently suffer a stroke, should make sure to tell any physician they visit about the full range of medications they are taking.
Specific types of psychotherapy, or "talk" therapy, also can relieve depression. Sometimes it is beneficial for family members of a stroke survivor to seek counseling as well.
Treatment for depression in stroke survivors should be managed by a mental health professional -- a psychiatrist, psychologist, or clinical social worker -- who is in close communication with the physician providing the post-stroke rehabilitation and treatment. This is especially important when the patient is taking antidepressant medication -- communication between the mental health professional and other healthcare providers can help prevent potentially harmful drug interactions. In some cases, a mental health professional who specializes in treating individuals with depression and co-occurring physical illnesses such as stroke may be available.
Recovery from depression takes time. Depression medicine can take several weeks to work and may need to be combined with ongoing psychotherapy. Not everyone responds to treatment in the same way, and prescriptions and dosing may need to be adjusted. However, no matter how severe a stroke, the person does not have to suffer from depression. Treatment can be effective.
Discuss the use of herbal supplements of any kind with a physician before you try them. Recently, scientists have discovered that St. John's wort, an herbal remedy sold over-the-counter and promoted as a treatment for mild depression, can have harmful interactions with some other medications.
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Stroke Information

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