Emotional Effects of Stroke Examined in New Research

According to research conducted at the University of Aberdeen, there are emotional effects of a stroke that can last up to eighteen months after its occurrence. Published in the British Journal of Clinical Psychology, this research could have could have immense weight on the types of treatment used in the recovery of stroke patients. In Britain alone, there are roughly 152,000 strokes occurring each year.

Researchers emphasized the importance of emotional regulation for our functioning. Such regulation includes being aware of one’s feelings and knowing how to cope with stress. Examples of coping mechanisms include counting to ten or talking about events with friends or family. After a stroke occurs, people may find it harder to recognize and know how to handle their emotions. Patients often report feeling overwhelmed by their emotions after a stroke, or that have lost control of their emotions. This obviously can have a severe negative impact on the quality of life of stroke patients. One of the hallmarks of this research is that it is the first of its kind to analyze the emotional effects of people who have suffered a stroke.

In the study, scientists conducted interviews with stroke patients six weeks after their strokes and then again, eighteen months into their recovery periods. They then compared their results to healthy adults who had not had a stroke. Participants were then asked about their abilities to control their emotions, primarily concerning their awareness of their emotions and impulsiveness. They were then asked about their social involvement with family and friends. Researchers then compared and analyzed all of the data to determine any connections between strokes and emotional problems.

Results from the study showed that participants who had experienced a stroke demonstrated compromised emotional regulation that was also tied to their social participation compared to people in a control group. Even after accounting for factors including low mood and mobility issues, people that were eighteen months into recovery still showed a link between regulation of emotion and social participation. One of the head researchers involved with the study noted that “these findings show that following a stroke, some patients can have long-term difficulties with emotion regulation and that this may affect their ability to participate socially.” 

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Gary Starkman Dr. Starkman, a top Neurologist in NYC, is the Medical Director and founder of New York Neurology Associates. He is Board Certified in Neurology with a subspecialty certification in Pain Medicine.

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