Depression After Surgery
Undergoing surgery can have a significant impact on a person’s life, whether it is to address an urgent medical condition or to improve their appearance and emotional well-being. However, not many people are aware that depression after surgery is real. The hardest part of undergoing surgery is dealing with recovery and the possible onset of postoperative depression. In 2015, a study revealed that following a surgical procedure, around 24% of patients were diagnosed with depression, while 40% were diagnosed with anxiety.
Knowing the reason behind depression after surgery and learning how to handle it can help you effectively manage it.
Postoperative depression is a continuous sense of despair and pessimism that persists after a surgical operation. It is important to recognize that it is common for people to feel sad or emotionally vulnerable following surgery. It can manifest itself for up to a year after the surgical procedure. Patients may exhibit various symptoms, which can worsen to the extent that they are unable to carry out daily tasks such as going to work.
One of the challenges in identifying this form of depression is that it can be difficult to differentiate it from other emotional reactions to surgery. For instance, a patient diagnosed with cancer may experience similar symptoms due to fear, stress, or anxiety related to the cancer, and the surgery may further exacerbate these emotions.
Common Causes of Depression After Surgery
When you entrust your health to another person, such as a surgeon, you can experience intense emotions, including depression. Surgery involves invading your body, which can be a traumatic experience. Depression can then set in due to various factors, such as pain, discomfort, restricted mobility, and increased dependence on others. In the case of patients who have had an organ or body part removed, a sense of loss may also contribute to their emotional state.
In addition, people with pre-existing depression and those who have recently undergone significant life changes are at a high risk of developing postoperative depression. Research indicates that patients who focus on the physical effects of surgery, despite positive feedback from their surgeons, are also more likely to experience depression.
Certain types of surgeries have a stronger association with postoperative depression compared to others, such as cardiac procedures, plastic and bariatric surgery, and operations performed on elderly patients, like hip replacements. Bariatric and plastic surgery patients may encounter challenges related to their self-esteem and body image.
New mothers are also susceptible to depression after surgery. They encounter various emotional and physical changes due to an increase in hormones. While some mothers may desire mommy makeovers to achieve a particular physical appearance, they should first ensure that they are not experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression before undergoing any surgical procedures.
Other factors that can contribute to depression after surgery include:
- financial cost of the surgery
- reaction to anesthesia
- reaction to medications
- facing mortality and death
- Worrying about the speed of recovery
- Anxiety over complications
Whether it is the circumstances related to diagnosis and treatment or the surgery itself that intensify the depression, the condition is still manageable. However, similar to any form of depression, delaying treatment can lead to more severe consequences for the patient.
Symptoms of Depression After Surgery
Depression is characterized by persistent feelings of sadness and other related symptoms, such as:
- challenges with decision-making
- issues with memory
- changes in appetite and sleep patterns
- loss of enjoyment in activities
- being easily irritated or restless
- slower movements and speech
- experiencing anxiety, guilt, stress, or a mix of these emotions
- feeling hopeless or despondent without an identifiable trigger
- having thoughts of self-harm or harming others.
If you experience symptoms of depression for a period of more than two weeks, it is better to schedule a consultation with your doctor. In cases where depression occurs soon after surgery, it may be a result of the medication used. However, if the symptoms persist for two weeks or more, it could indicate the presence of depression.
Managing Depression After Surgery
Taking proactive measures to handle postoperative depression is crucial. Here are a few suggestions that might help in managing it:
Talk with your doctor.
Your doctor is the most suitable person to assist you with depression, as they are already familiar with your medical requirements. Medication may be necessary, and your doctor can ensure that any prescribed treatments do not negatively impact your post-surgery recovery. Moreover, physicians have connections to mental health experts and can recommend someone who can help you handle your depression.
Reach out to close friends and family.
Depression after surgery can lead to a sense of isolation and loneliness. Although it can be challenging to discuss one’s mental health, it is still helpful to seek support from friends and family to ensure a proper recovery. Engaging in conversations about depression with loved ones can lead to the discovery of coping techniques that may be more effective. It is also a simple way to share one’s thoughts and feelings.
Go outside more.
A change of environment and fresh air can be a big help in managing depression symptoms. If surgery or a medical issue impacts your ability to move around, a friend, family member, or caregiver may be able to assist in arranging an outing. It is important to ensure that the location you plan to visit is free of any infection risks, and you can consult with your doctor in advance to assess any potential hazards.
Exercise in moderation.
Light physical activity following surgery may assist in preventing depression, depending on the type of surgery. Engaging in exercise can enhance physical strength, elevate energy levels and mood, motivate you to venture outside and inhale fresh air, and enhance self-confidence by achieving small goals each day. Even a brief daily stroll can boost your overall well-being.
Follow a healthy diet.
A healthy diet can aid in improved weight control, physical well-being, and receiving essential nutrients for post-surgery recovery. It is advisable to restrict the intake of processed foods, foods with added fats and sugar, and alcoholic beverages, as they are known to intensify depression symptoms. Research has demonstrated that a diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, and other nutritious foods is linked to a lower risk of depression.
Have a regular sleep routine.
Creating a consistent sleep routine can alleviate fatigue, facilitate recovery, and promote physical and mental wellness. In order to achieve better sleep, maintain a regular sleep schedule, go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. If possible, avoid daytime napping, keep the sleeping area dark and comfortable, and leave electronic devices such as mobile phones outside of the sleeping area at night.
Even though post-surgery recovery can vary in duration and varies for each person, most typically resume their regular lifestyle. However, depression can prolong the healing process. If you are experiencing depression symptoms, it is essential to consult your doctor. Mindshift Psychological Services will help you manage symptoms of depression. You may visit our website to learn more about us or contact us at (714) 584-9700 to schedule an appointment.