Stroke Emotions

Having a stroke causes emotional difficulties for both the patient and family members. Anger and anxiety are common responses to the permanent limitations and loss of independence caused by a stroke. Further, the slow and sometimes tedious pace of rehabilitation can cause lack of motivation that, if left unchecked, can develop into depression.

Emotional Lability: Uncontrolled Crying and Laughing

Strokes can lead to personality changes and emotional imbalances. Stroke survivors often find that crying, anger, and laughter occur more easily than they did before the stroke. In some stroke patients, “emotional lability” occurs, when crying and laughter become uncontrollable.

Personality Type and Stroke

Surprisingly, personality type plays a large role in stroke rehabilitation. People who react well to stress, control anxiety, and are generally optimistic about life before a stroke are most likely to react well to life after the stroke. People whose personality type makes them prone to anger, anxiety, or depression, or who lack motivation usually find stroke rehabilitation difficult and discouraging.

On the other hand, personality type is vulnerable to change after a stroke. While any stroke victim is at risk of depression, sudden signs of anger, anxiety, and uncontrolled crying in people who were previously adept at handling stress may indicate that the stroke has caused a personality change.

Lack of Motivation and Signs of Depression

Stroke rehabilitation can be slow, painful, and frustrating. When stroke survivors do not see the improvements they hope for, they are more likely to lose motivation. Lack of motivation is a normal reaction to setbacks. However, when a lack of motivation persists and impairs progress in rehabilitation or if the lack of motivation spreads to other areas of life, it may indicate depression.

Signs of depression in stroke survivors should be reported to health care professionals as soon as possible. If depression is left untreated, stroke survivors may become suicidal.

Signs of depression include:

  • lack of motivation
  • increase or decrease in appetite
  • sadness
  • fatigue
  • memory difficulties
  • personality changes
  • sexual problems
  • suicidal thoughts
  • insomnia
  • feeling “hopeless.”

More information on how to identify signs of depression can be found on the Symptoms of Depression website.

Anger, Anxiety, and Depression in Caregivers

Anger, anxiety, and signs of depression are common in caregivers as well as stroke patients. The restrictions and changes to routine and family life can cause frustration and anxiety in any family member. A stroke patient whose personality tends towards anger and depression, or whose personality changes radically, can leave caregivers feeling angry and resentful. This anger at times turns into guilt (“How can I be angry at him? He’s the one who’s sick . . . “) which can result in increased stress and depression.


Westley, J. (1993). Emotional issues following stroke. Retrieved February 19, 2004, from