Changes to mental health, emotional health or both

You may have emotional, behavioral or other mental health changes. Talk with your health care provider if your emotional changes become severe or if they do not go away. You may find help by talking with a social worker or psychologist.

You may have one or more of the following changes.


Anxiety is a strong feeling of fear and may involve constant worry. Intense anxiety is a temporary reaction to the stresses of everyday life. Some anxiety is normal.

You need to get help when you have physical symptoms that keep you from feeling healthy and affect your work or social life. Severe and chronic (long-lasting) anxiety needs treatment.

Common symptoms of anxiety include:

  • dizziness or feeling lightheaded
  • racing or pounding heartbeat
  • trouble breathing (too rapid, short of breath or unable to breathe)
  • feeling like you will throw up
  • tense muscles or shaking
  • worrying a lot
  • irritability or restlessness
  • trouble concentrating
  • problems sleeping due to worrying
  • avoiding situations that make you uncomfortable


Clinical depression is a serious medical illness. It is not something you have made up in your head. It is more than just feeling "down" or "blue" for a few days. It is normal for you to feel sad after a brain injury. But there is a deeper sadness that may show up right after a brain injury or many weeks later.

You may have feelings of helplessness, hopelessness and poor self-esteem. These feelings can go on for weeks or months. Depression can even affect how often you become ill or how well you heal after your stroke.

You need to call your doctor right away if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • feeling sad, blue or down in the dumps
  • losing interest in things you used to enjoy
  • feeling sluggish, restless or unable to sit still
  • feeling worthless or guilty
  • having an increase or decrease in appetite or weight
  • having problems concentrating, thinking, remembering or making decisions
  • having trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • losing energy or feeling tired all the time
  • having headaches
  • having aches and pains
  • having digestive problems
  • having sexuality problems
  • feeling pessimistic or hopeless
  • being anxious or worried
  • having relationship problems with your family, friends or caregiver (members of your care circle)
  • having thoughts of death or suicide

Emotional lability (limited control over your feelings and reactions)

You may have limited control over your feelings and reactions.You may laugh, cry or get upset more easily or at the wrong times.

Loss of inhibition

You may have changes in how you interact with other people. You may have these types of behaviors:

  • aggression or violence
  • impulsiveness or no self-control
  • temper outbursts (verbal or physical)
  • inappropriate social behavior
  • inappropriate sexual behavior
  • inappropriate use of alcohol, street drugs (heroin, marijuana,methamphetamine) or both.

Mood swings

You can go from being happy to being sad or angry without warning. Your mood swings may vary.


You may be focused on your needs and not be paying attention to members of your care circle.

Source: Allina Health Patient EducationUnderstanding Stroke, fifth edition, neuro-ahc-90662
Reviewed By: Allina Health Patient Education experts
First Published: 02/01/2006
Last Reviewed: 05/01/2018

Thoughts of death or suicide

Depression can include feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness and even thoughts of suicide.

Call your health care provider or the national Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 if you are having thoughts of death or suicide.