Recovering from surgery can take time and involve discomfort. Many people feel encouraged that they’re on the way to feeling better again. Sometimes, however, depression can develop.
Depression is a complication that can happen after any type of surgery. It’s a serious condition that needs attention so that you can find the treatments that can help you cope.
Many people who experience postsurgery depression don’t expect it to happen. Doctors don’t always warn people about it beforehand.
Factors that can contribute include:
- having depression before surgery
- chronic pain
- reactions to anesthesia
- reactions to pain medications
- facing one’s own mortality
- the physical and emotional stress of surgery
- concerns about your speed of recovery
- anxiety over possible complications
- feelings of guilt about depending on others
- concerns that the surgery may not be enough
- stress related to recovery, the return home, financial costs, and so on
Certain surgeries may carry a higher risk of postoperative depression, but it can appear after any surgery.
According to one study,
Some people may find their depression improves after surgery, especially if they have a good outcome.
Depression after heart surgery is so common that it has its own name: cardiac depression.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), about 25 percent of all people who undergo heart surgery will experience depression as a result.
This number is significant because the AHA advises that a positive outlook can help improve your healing.
Symptoms of postsurgery depression can be easy to miss because some of them can be similar to the aftereffects of the surgery.
- excessive sleeping or sleeping more often than normal
- loss of interest in activities
- anxiety, stress, or hopelessness
- loss of appetite
Medications and the aftereffects of surgery can lead to:
- a loss of appetite
- excessive sleeping
However, if you have emotional symptoms, such as hopelessness, agitation, or loss of interest in activities alongside fatigue and a loss of appetite, these may be signs of postsurgery depression.
If symptoms last longer than 2 weeks, make an appointment with your doctor to talk about depression.
If depression appears immediately after surgery, this could be an effect of medication. If symptoms continue for 2 weeks or longer, they may be a sign of depression.
Knowing what to do to manage postsurgery depression ahead of time is an important step.
Here are some tips that may help you cope:
1. See your doctor
Make an appointment to see your doctor if you think you may have postsurgery depression.
They may be able to prescribe medications that won’t interfere with your postoperative care. They may also recommend a suitable mental health professional.
If you’re considering taking natural supplements, ask your doctor whether they’re safe to take or if they could interfere with the medications you’re already using.
2. Get outside
A change of scenery and a breath of fresh air may help manage some of the symptoms of depression.
If surgery or a health condition affects your mobility, a friend, family member, or social care worker may be able to help you have a change of scene.
You may need to check that there’s no risk of infection at the location you’re planning to visit. You can ask your doctor about this risk beforehand.
3. Focus on the positive
Set positive and realistic goals and celebrate your progress, however small. Goal setting can help you maintain a positive outlook.
Focus on the long-term recovery instead of the frustration of not being where you want to be as fast as you’d like.
Exercise as much as you can, as soon as your doctor recommends it.
If your surgery was for a replacement knee or hip, exercise will be part of your treatment plan. Your therapist will prescribe exercises specifically to help with your recovery.
For other types of surgery, ask your doctor when and how you can exercise.
Depending on your surgery, you may be able to lift small weights or stretch in bed. Your doctor will help you come up with an exercise plan that’s right for you.
5. Follow a healthy diet
A healthy diet can help you feel better and manage your weight. It will also provide the nutrients your body needs to heal.
Consume plenty of:
- fresh fruits and vegetables
- whole grains
- healthy oils
Limit or avoid:
- processed foods
- foods with added fats
- foods with added sugar
- alcoholic drinks
6. Be prepared
Preparing your home for recovery before you have the operation can reduce stress and anxiety.
It may also help reduce the risk of further problems and complications, such as falling and being unable to find important documents.
It’s important to know the signs and symptoms of postoperative depression before your loved one undergoes surgery.
Here are some ways of helping if you think they may be experiencing depression:
- Stay positive without diminishing their feelings of sadness or grief.
- Let them vent about any frustrations they have.
- Encourage healthy habits.
- Form routines.
- Help them meet their doctor’s recommendations for diet and exercise.
- Celebrate every small milestone, because each is significant.
If your loved one’s physical condition starts to improve, the depression may lessen, too. If it doesn’t, encourage them to see a doctor.
Depression can be a side effect of surgery.
For anyone undergoing surgery, it can be beneficial for them and their families to know that depression is a possibility and to recognize the signs if they occur.
In this way, they can know when to seek medical help so that they can get early treatment.