New Faces of Stroke(SM) Campaign Highlights Serious Post-Stroke Emotional Issues


Sonja Frazier, 65, suffered her first stroke in June 2005, while at work. Because she received immediate medical attention, Sonja recovered well, but after her stroke, she was more emotional, tearing up and crying like never before.

Sonja suffered subsequent strokes in December 2005 and January 2006. This time, the effects were severe and very obvious. It would be more than a month before Sonja could go home. But coming home was difficult for both Sonja and her family. Sonja could not function on her own, nor could she be left alone.

Sonja continued to suffer random outbursts of emotion, "Mom would cry and wail uncontrollably," recalls Sonja's daughter, Amber Frazier-Howe, in National Stroke Association's latest Faces of Stroke campaign video. "Anything that evoked emotion or any reaction would result in an outburst. Many times we wondered if she was so sad because of all that she's lost." Thankfully, Sonja was diagnosed with pseudobulbar affect (PBA) during therapy, as it was interfering with her ability to participate in the exercises.

In honor of National Depression Education and Awareness Month, National Stroke Association has launched a new Faces of Stroke(SM) mini-campaign designed to educate about depression, anxiety and other emotional behavior changes that are common in stroke survivors. This campaign underscores the difference between depression and PBA, a medical condition that is often undiagnosed and inappropriately treated.

Since Sonja has difficulty communicating due to her strokes, her daughters have become her advocates—and join National Stroke Association's Faces of Stroke campaign as ambassadors. Read more about this campaign.

PBA is triggered by damage to an area of the brain and is often mistaken for and misdiagnosed as depression, and affects approximately one million Americans. It is sometimes referred to as emotional lability, pathological crying and laughing or emotional incontinence. Sudden and often inappropriate outbursts of PBA can make people feel like their internal emotions and external expressions are disconnected. This can cause frustration for both stroke survivors and their loved ones. Understanding this condition can be a step toward reclaiming and improving your relationship and quality of life.

National Stroke Association launched the Faces of Stroke campaign in 2011, and has supplemented it with new mini-campaigns that delve into specific stroke topic areas. "After you meet a stroke survivor with PBA, you immediately understand how devastating this condition is to their quality of life. It's important that we give it special attention, because the stroke community is so vastly affected by it, and to varying degrees," said Jim Baranski, Chief Executive Officer, National Stroke Association. "This campaign is an opportunity to raise awareness of PBA and its relationship to stroke, and give those who are impacted by it an opportunity to talk about it."

"We believe that patients have the power to influence healthy behaviors through storytelling," said Mr. Baranski. "You just have to give them the opportunity. Anyone affected by stroke—no matter the connection—can have a role in raising awareness by telling their stories and sharing them with people they care about."