Scott B. Patten, MD, PhD
Departments of Community Health Sciences and Psychiatry,
University of Calgary, Population Health Investigator,
The Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research,
Stroke has the potential to disrupt several facets of a person's life including communication, emotional regulation, cognitive function and coping skills.1 Furthermore, stroke does not just impact on the individual but also on his or her family members and other social networks of which he or she is a part. Stroke has been regarded as form of "double-jeopardy"1 in the sense that the condition creates many new problems and challenges for those afflicted, and simultaneously detracts from the afflicted persons' capacity to cope with those challenges. It can also lead to disruptions in those same social connections that would normally support adaptation to loss.
Understanding the role of psychosocial factors in recovery from stroke requires adopting a conceptual viewpoint that transcends the traditional biomedical perspective. A suitable framework is provided by the World Health Organization's International Classification of Impairments, Disabilities and Handicaps (WHO-ICIDH). The WHO system differentiates among impairment, disability and handicap. According to the WHO, impairment is defined as any loss or abnormality of structure or function.