Strokes and depression: The link

Your doctor and natural therapist can assist with both stroke and depressionDepression is a mood associated illness that inhibits normal daily activity and often follows a stroke. It has serious repercussions mentally, physically and emotionally and statistics show it affects as many as one in four people. Statistics are even higher for stroke victims due to the changes that can occur in the brain.

A stroke can trigger depression due to physical impairment in moving or swallowing as well as the vulnerability associated with the aftermath of stroke due to loss of independence, inability to work and changes in relationships afterwards. Often also after a stroke, people cannot walk or exercise as well so their routines have to change which also precipitates feelings of vulnerability, age and illness.

Depression after a stroke can often go undiagnosed because the person feels tired, sad or has memory issues and people think it is a repercussion of the stroke rather than another illness lurking. Family members may also be depressed seeing their loved one in a different health state or from the extra burden of change in routine due to being their carer now. The depression becomes a permanent part of the routine and precipitates more depression so it must be treated as it will not disappear on its own. It is a medical illness and needs treatment from either a natural practitioner or a doctor, or both.

Patients who are depressed are less likely to follow their doctors instructions or routine and this sets up a cycle where they risk becoming ill again. It needs to be made clear that what stroke victims are feeling is not a symptom of the stroke necessarily or of old age, and depression is not a part of ageing as even youngsters become depressed. Just as not only older people can have a stroke. It can hit anyone at any age.

There are marked differences though between just feeling sad and depression. The very action of having a stroke is stressful in itself and the vulnerability, immobility and impairment often make victims sad. However depression is more than just this as depressed people feel down much of the time and lose interest in their life for some period of time. They say this is two weeks, normally, but given that everyone is different and their circumstances are different it may actually be a bit longer than that. There are other symptoms to look for such as feeling lethargic and not sleeping properly, changes in appetite and weight, restlessness, bad concentration, memory and decision-making problems, excessive concern over death or even feeling guilty.  It is true some of these symptoms are part of having a stroke so it is wise to consult a professional to determine the causes.

The good news is that you will recover from the depression if you pay attention to your lifestyle changes that are necessary, such as better food, addressing your inflammation levels, giving up the foods that cause inflammation, giving up foods you are sensitive or allergic to, having a good exercise routine that suits your current health conditions and giving up vices such as alcohol, drugs or cigarettes. You may also need to see a counsellor or therapist and take medication temporarily, depending on the depth of your depression. Of course this must be compatible with the medication you are on after your stroke.

If you have problems with communication, focus or memory, the treatment will need to be specifically catered to your needs. Only a doctor can decide which medication is right for you so you need to find one that you trust and work with your counsellors and natural practitioners in conjunction with your doctor. You may go on a mild anti-depressant, however it needs to be emphasised these all have side effects and can affect your liver after a prolonged period of time so they are just a temporary measure. Getting to the root of your depression is what the therapist does when they work with you, and that is essential as it will affect the rest of your life. Finding the right anti-depressant is also important and it takes a while before they start to work. Also, if you intend to stop taking them you need to talk to your doctor about it. Your natural practitioner will need to work with you on this to assist you to overcome the causes of your depression while your doctor keeps you functioning until the causes are unraveled and you reach a level of function on less medication.

To handle this properly you will need to find, with the help of your natural therapist, suitable natural supplements and herbs to wean you off the anti-depressants without interfering with them. Only your doctor can wean you off the drugs. That is why you need to consult a therapist and not just buy supplements over the counter from a healthfood store or chemist that does not know your case in depth. This is also why it is so important for doctors and natural therapist to work together to make a health plan that is right for you. Given the right people, your practitioners can assist you to handle the depression associated with stroke and you will be back into a quality lifestyle quicker than you think.

Jenetta Haim

Jenetta Haim

Jenetta Haim runs Stressfree Management at 36 Gipps Road, Greystanes, and specialises in assisting your health and lifestyle in all areas by developing programs on either a corporate or personal level to suit your needs. Jenetta has just published a book called Stress-Free Health Management, A Natural Solution for Your Health available from your favourite bookstore or online. For more information and to get in touch, visit her website at Stressfree Management.

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