Aug 2021

Post-Operative Depression

  • By: Samantha Denäe

Postoperative depression, it’s a medical phrase that is not often discussed, but one that exists. With everything that comes with having a surgical procedure, depression is the last to be mentioned and physicians should be more aware of how traumatic an invasive surgery is and the effect it can have on a person especially when it’s their first time. 

During surgery, post-op depression can be a result of cognitive dysfunction, pain, lack of mobility, anxiety over possible complications, dependency upon others, and a compromised immune system.

Additionally, general anesthesia (a mixture of gasses and drugs to sedate prior to surgery) may also be responsible for the cause post-op depression, especially within the first six months of recovery. Many who go through post-op depression do not see it coming.

Depending on the type of procedure, there is a higher risk of developing post-op depression, but may appear after surgery and can mimic the recovery symptoms and effects of medications administered after surgery making it hard to decipher whether it’s recovery or depression.

Certain surgeries may carry a higher risk of post-operative depression. Symptoms of postsurgery depression can be easy to miss because some of them can be similar to the aftereffects of the surgery. 

Factors that can contribute to post-operative depression may include: 

  • having depression before surgery
  • chronic pain
  • facing one’s mortality
  • physical and emotional stress of surgery
  • the length or speed of recovery
  • concerns that the surgery may not be enough
  • stress related to recovery, returning home, financial costs, and more

Symptoms of post-op depression may include:

  • excessive sleeping or sleeping more often than usual
  • irritability
  • loss of interest in activities
  • fatigue
  • anxiety, stress, or hopelessness
  • loss of appetite

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.

To combat symptoms of post-op depression try spending time in nature as sunlight is a natural mood enhancer, get plenty of rest, eat healthy and balanced, spend time with family and friends, and do activities that you enjoy. When the body is ready, start slowly with getting back into your normal routine.

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