A new study out of the Cleveland Clinic is looking at the psychological effects of a stroke.

The physical effects are well-documented. While every stroke is different, there are certain shared physical symptoms for a stroke. The American Stroke Association brings those symptoms together with their helpful acronym––F.A.S.T.––which can be used to know when someone is having a stroke. Face drooping, arm weakness, and difficulty speaking are all physical signs of a stroke.

But what about the psychological effects afterward? How do strokes affect people emotionally?

Impact of Stroke Damage

Irene Katzan from the Cleveland Clinic looked at how people’s lives changed after a stroke. “The three aspects of health that were most impacted in patients who have had a stroke are physical functions, cognitive abilities – their ability to think through things – and their satisfaction with their roles in society,” said Dr. Katzan.

The study questioned 1,195 people who had experienced an ischemic stroke to discover what was different after they returned to their day-to-day lives. The study aimed to uncover the hidden quality-of-life impact of strokes. Moreover, it provided valuable information for caregivers helping a loved one after a stroke to better understand what may be happening emotionally.

“For people with more disability, what bothers them the most? Problems with sleep? Depression? Fatigue? Not many studies have asked people how they feel about these problems, and we doctors have often focused just on physical disability or whether they have another stroke,” [Katzan] says.

The study reported:

While 63 percent reported greater physical challenges following a stroke compared to the general population, 46 percent reported having increased difficulty with thinking. Likewise, 58 percent reported greater dissatisfaction with their ability to participate in social and work-related activities.

As Katzan points out, these findings are only a first step. More information is needed in order to best understand a stroke’s impact on emotional health. This study opens the door for more research to be done looking at how to ensure that people still feel socially connected following a stroke. Life changes following a stroke, which means that all aspects of a person’s life need to be addressed, not just the physical effects.

Image: Emily Morter via Unsplash