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Stroke: Changes in Emotions

Topic Overview

Emotional reactions after a stroke may be different from normal emotional reactions.

  • The reaction may have little or no clear connection with what is happening around the person.
  • Often reactions can be easily interrupted by diverting the person's attention.

People who have had a stroke—usually in the front part of the brain or in the brain stem—can suddenly cry or laugh for no clear reason. When the behavior has nothing to do with what a person is feeling or doing, it is called pseudobulbar affect (PBA).

  • PBA is caused by a brain problem.
  • Fits of crying or laughing are out of a person's control. Crying happens most often.
  • Medicine may be needed to help control emotional responses.

Crying can also be a symptom of depression, which is a medical condition that often gets better with treatment. If depression is not treated, it can interfere with recovery. And it can have a big impact on how much a person enjoys life.

People who have had a stroke may act differently. A person may:

  • Become grouchy, confused, or restless.
  • Sometimes have false beliefs (delusions).
  • See or hear things that aren't there (hallucinations).

This is more likely to occur when someone has to stay in bed for long periods of time. And it is more likely to be a problem at night. A radio playing softly in the bedroom or a dim light beside the bed may be helpful during the night.

If you notice that your loved one has a sudden change in emotions or mental state, it may be delirium. If you have questions or concerns, call your doctor.

Credits

Current as of: July 13, 2019

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Richard D. Zorowitz MD - Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Colin Chalk MD, CM, FRCPC - Neurology

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