Around one-third of people who have had a stroke will experience depression. This can arise due to social isolation or biological factors. However, treatments, such as psychotherapy, antidepressants, and light therapy, can help.

Depression after a stroke may occur due to biochemical changes in the brain from injury resulting from the stroke.

This article discusses what stroke and depression are, how the two are connected, and treatments for depression after a stroke. It also answers some common questions about depression following a stroke.

Image of a couple with their heads leaning against each other, one is sat in a chair the other is sat in a wheelchairShare on Pinterest
Getty Images

A stroke, which some people may call a brain attack, occurs when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. It can also arise when something blocks the blood supply to a part of the brain. Healthcare professionals call the first type a hemorrhagic stroke and the second an ischemic stroke.

A stroke may severely damage parts of the brain and cause long-term disability or death.

Learn more about life after a stroke.

Symptoms

Symptoms of stroke include:

Causes

The causes of stroke vary depending on which type a person experiences. The below are common causes of a stroke.

Hemorrhagic stroke

In hemorrhagic stroke, a weakened blood vessel in the brain bursts and bleeds into the surrounding brain tissue, causing pressure in the brain. Weaknesses in blood vessels in the brain can include arteriovenous malformation (AVM) and aneurysms.

AVM is a genetic condition that affects the arteries and can cause bleeding in the brain.

An aneurysm is a weakened area in a blood vessel that bulges. Aneurysms become weaker as they enlarge, which increases the risk of them bursting and causing bleeding in the brain.

Ischemic stroke

An ischemic stroke occurs when a blood clot blocks a vessel that supplies the brain with blood. A clot can form in different ways, but atherosclerosis is the primary cause of blood clots that lead to ischemic stroke.

A clot may form at a fatty plaque within a narrow blood vessel in the brain — doctors refer to this as cerebral thrombosis. Alternatively, a clot may break away from blood vessels in another bodily area and travel to the brain, where it cannot pass through a narrow blood vessel. Healthcare professionals call this a cerebral embolism.

Depression is a serious mood disorder that can cause severe symptoms. It can affect how a person thinks, feels, and deals with aspects of daily life, such as eating, sleeping, and working. A doctor can diagnose depression if a person has experienced symptoms for 2 weeks or longer.

Symptoms of depression can vary between people, but common symptoms include:

Suicide prevention

If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:

  • Ask the tough question: “Are you considering suicide?”
  • Listen to the person without judgment.
  • Call 911 or the local emergency number, or text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
  • Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
  • Try to remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects if it’s safe to do so.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 988. During a crisis, people who are hard of hearing can use their preferred relay service or dial 711 then 988.

Find more links and local resources.

Was this helpful?

Around one-third of people who have survived a stroke experience depression. Most individuals who experience post-stroke depression develop the disorder within the first year following the stroke.

Health experts do not completely understand the physiological processes relating to post-stroke depression. However, they suggest that there are links to psychological responses to social isolation and coping with disability, as well as biological factors, which include:

Risk factors that contribute to depression after stroke include:

People who experience post-stroke depression may have difficulty recovering from a stroke and have a higher risk of stroke recurrence and mortality.

Some research suggests that treating inflammation may help treat depression following stroke. However, this is not a standard treatment strategy, so more studies are necessary.

Standard treatment for depression can involve:

Below are answers to some common questions about depression after a stroke.

Is depression a side effect of stroke?

A stroke may cause depression. One-third of people who have experienced a stroke also experience depression, often within the first year after the event.

What type of stroke causes depression?

Any stroke that causes disability, social isolation, or damage to the brain may lead to depression.

Can a stroke cause emotional changes?

Yes, a person may experience emotional changes due to damage in the brain or adjusting to new social challenges and disabilities.

Depression after a stroke is common, and around one-third of people who survive a stroke experience it. Post-stroke depression may occur due to psychological responses to a disability or social isolation, biological factors, such as inflammation, genetics, or a disruption in neural pathways and chemicals.

Treatment for depression, such as psychotherapy and antidepressants, may be effective for managing post-stroke depression.