Peter Cornelis took up painting to help him focus after having six strokes and brain surgery.
"You're always worried about having it happen again," he said.
Cornelis now suffers from depression and anxiety. Doctors have diagnosed the 62-year-old with post-traumatic stress disorder.
"It's fear, anxiety-- stressful," he said.
Now, a new study from Columbia University Medical Center shows one in four people who survive a stroke suffer symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder within the first year.
"Patients have a lot of re-experiencing of the event which are things like having nightmares or flashbacks or just having lots of thoughts about having had the stroke that they don't really want to be having," said Dr. Ian Kronish, one of the study's authors.
Stroke is a leading cause of death in the U.S. and the top cause of disability. About 800,000 people suffer a stroke each year.
Kronish says doctors need be on the lookout for signs of depression, anxiety and PTSD in their stroke patients so they can get the treatment they need.
"For patients and their families if they are having a lot of trouble coping with the stroke, for any type of reason, bring it to the attention of the doctor," Kronish said.
It's been a long road for Cornelis. He was paralyzed for a time after brain surgery and still struggles with headaches, memory and speech problems. He's getting help from a psychologist and medication.
"Life is still good, life gets better, even with the symptoms of PTSD," Cornelis said.
And he says painting has helped him focus on the positive.
The study also found one in nine stroke survivors still experienced chronic PTSD more than a year later. Previous research from Columbia also found that patients who survive a heart attack can develop PTSD.
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