Let’s Talk About Post-Stroke Depression

Experiencing a stroke is a major life event. A stroke may cause someone to lose cognitive and physical abilities, such as not communicating or using one side of their body. Depending on where the lesion occurs, some people may experience the inability to control their emotions which can cause them great distress. Depression post-stroke is very common, owing to different factors. In this blog post, we discuss the frequency, factors, and potential remedies for post-stroke depression.


In a recent meta-analysis of studies that examined the frequency of post-stroke depression, between 39-52% of patients experience post-stroke depression within the first 5 years following their stroke. In studies that examine depression post-stroke, common psychological diagnostic assessments are performed that assess depression. However, these assessments do not distinguish depression post-stroke from other depressive disorders. More sensitive and specific assessments for depression post-stroke are needed, but generally, about half of patients who have experienced a stroke are likely also to experience depression. 

Risk Factors

An important component of assessing depression is understanding different kinds of risk factors. For patients with stroke, these are several risk factors that researchers have identified through multiple studies:


5-HTTLPR and STin2 VNTR polymorphisms of the serotonin transporter gene.


 Women are more likely to report experiencing depression than men post-stroke.


Patients with post-stroke depression were more likely to have diabetes than patients who did not report having depression.

Functional and cognitive impairment:

 Depending on the results of a stroke, if a person is left experiencing significant disability, they are more likely to experience post-stroke depression.

Lesion Location

There may be a relationship between lesions occurring in the left frontal lobe or left basal ganglia and the development of post-stroke depression.


Some studies have examined the efficacy of antidepressants for depression post-stroke. Sometimes, physicians may prescribe antidepressants depending on a patient’s medical condition and psychological status. Some clients prefer to not take medication, and may seek psychotherapy services. People with stroke may choose to attend support groups, which may help them learn how to live with chronic stroke and help them develop coping mechanisms. More research is needed to study other potential therapies that may be effective in resolving post-stroke depression.


Post-stroke depression is very common. Many factors influence the risk of someone developing post-stroke depression, such as comorbid medical conditions and demographic variables. Treatment for post-stroke depression commonly involves medication or psychotherapy. If you are working with a client who has experienced a stroke, talk to them about their mental health and see how you may be able to guide them to effective treatment options. 

Robinson, R. G., & Jorge, R. E. (2016). Post-stroke depression: a review. American Journal of Psychiatry, 173(3), 221-231.
Dustin Luchmee

Dustin was HappyNeuron's Product Specialist. With research experience in stroke, Dustin learned how a stroke can change someone's life. He also learned how different kinds of therapists can work together to help a person get better. He is passionate about neuro-rehabilitation and finding the active ingredients for effective therapy.

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