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Depression following stroke is common, says expert on Sen. Fetterman’s depression

Why depression can follow stroke and why hospitalization can be important

CHICAGO --- Sen. John Fetterman’s struggle with clinical depression is common for individuals following a stroke, says a Northwestern Medicine psychiatrist.

Dr. Will Cronenwett, chief of psychiatry at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, explains why stroke can lead to depression and why hospitalization may be important.

Dr. Will Cronenwett: “Post-stroke depression affects about one-third of people who have strokes. There’s not a lot of data behind the reason, but one idea is that stroke itself messes up the brain’s ability to function well, not just the part of the brain where the neurons are affected by the actual stroke, but the way the different brain regions talk to each other. As a result, it can cause cognitive troubles and that can impact the way we see and perceive the world and lead to depression. The other way stroke can lead to depression is the psychological impact of disability. A lot of people with stroke have to adjust to new reality of what their body and brain can do. And in some people that adjustment can lead to depression.

“Depression doesn’t have to happen immediately after a stroke; it can happen years later. But living as a stroke survivor does raise your risk for having depressive episodes.

“Going into the hospital is a good place to be if you have severe depression. One reason to come into the hospital is in-patient care can happen faster than out-patient care. Also, in the hospital, we can keep people safe. People with depression sometimes have trouble with activities of daily living. They may shut down or may stop eating. The hospital can support them in their activities of daily living. Some people may have thoughts about suicide, and the hospital can be a place of safety, while they are recovering.”