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Stroke and Depression

There is a relationship between stroke and depression. Of the 600,000 American men and women who experience a first or recurrent stroke each year, an estimated 10 to 27 percent will experience major depression. Unfortunately, the depression that often follows a stroke is frequently undiagnosed and untreated. When a person experiences both a stroke and depression, it's important to treat both medical problems separately.

An Overview of Stroke and Depression

Depression can strike anyone, but people who have had a stroke may be at greater risk of feeling depressed. Appropriate diagnosis and treatment of depression may bring substantial benefits to people who are recovering from a stroke by improving their medical status, enhancing their quality of life, and reducing their pain and disability.
 
Treatment for depression can also:
 
  • Shorten the rehabilitation process
  • Lead to more rapid recovery and resumption of routine
  • Save on healthcare costs.
 
Stroke can occur in all age groups and can even affect fetuses still in the womb. However, three-fourths of strokes occur in people who are 65 years of age and older, making stroke a leading cause of disability in older people.
 

Facts About Stroke and Depression

Of the 600,000 American men and women who experience a first or recurrent stroke each year, an estimated 10 to 27 percent will experience major depression. An additional 15 to 40 percent of stroke survivors will experience some symptoms of depression within two months following a stroke.
 
The average duration of major depression in people who have suffered a stroke is just under a year. Factors that can affect the likelihood and severity of depression following a stroke include:
 
  • The location of the brain lesion
  • Previous or family history of depression
  • Pre-stroke social functioning.
 
Stroke survivors who are also depressed, particularly those with major depressive disorder, may be less compliant with rehabilitation, more irritable, and may experience personality change.
 
Despite the enormous advances in stroke research in the past 20 years, depression in people who have had a stroke often goes undiagnosed and untreated. Stroke survivors, their family members and friends, and even their physicians may misinterpret depression symptoms as an inevitable reaction to the effects of a stroke. However, depression is a separate illness that can and should be treated, even when a person is undergoing post-stroke rehabilitation.
 
Although signs or symptoms of depression may overlap with post-stroke symptoms, skilled health professionals will:
 
  • Recognize the symptoms of depression
  • Inquire about their duration and severity
  • Diagnose the disorder
  • Suggest appropriate treatment.
 
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