Depression After Surgery: Prepare For it, Then Deal With It

depression after surgeryAfter undergoing any kind of major surgery, there may be many side effects that accompany this seismic life event, not least of which is a crippling depression that can make the patient’s recovery that much more excruciating. Though this aspect of surgery is not often given the attention it deserves, it is a very real possibility for those faced with a serious operation. Coupled with the fact that most surgeons are mostly concerned with just the patient’s physical recovery, rather than their mental status, this post-operative depression may linger a bit longer than is necessary, further drawing out the recovery process.

If you or a loved one is about to go under the knife, and are curious or worried about post-operative depression, you can learn a bit more about this unusual side-effect here today. We will discuss what may cause this depression, some of the symptoms of it, and what can be done to minimize the effects and help get rid of it altogether. If you’d like to learn more about overcoming mental anguish, this course on beating depression offers 12 strategies for dealing with mild cases.

Before Surgery

If you, a friend, or family member are scheduled for surgery soon, they should do their best to not only be prepared physically, but mentally, as well. Post-operative depression is not discussed as often as the more physical side effects of surgery, but it’s the mental recovery that could possibly outlast the physical.

  • Who’s At Risk 

Anyone undergoing a serious surgery is at risk of post-operative depression, but there are certain types of people, as well as specific surgeries, that are more prone to depression after the fact. The types of surgery that most often result in depressed patients include: heart surgery, hip replacement surgery, brain surgery (tumors and epilepsy), and bariatric surgery. Besides those who are already prone to depression, including having it run in their family, other warning signs that a patient is likely to experience post-operative depression are those who are single, smokers, those with high cholesterol, as well as those with high levels of anxiety caused by the surgery. Are you a smoker who wants to quit before your surgery, or for your health, in general? This course on quitting smoking offers a step-by-step process of quitting this harmful habit.

  • Possible Causes of Post-Operative Depression

It’s not quite known exactly what factors cause this depression, though there are some thoughts about that. As depression may strike any surgery patient, there are theories as to exactly which aspects of the surgery may have a detrimental effect on patients, such as:

  1. Anesthesia from the surgery
  2. Antibiotics and other medications given to treat pain
  3. Disorientation after the surgery
  4. Digestive problems caused by medication given to the patient
  5. Post-Surgical Traumatic Stress Syndrome
  6. Soreness and pain
  7. Being bedridden in the recovery process
  • How to Prepare 

This may be something that the patient is going to have to undertake without the help of the doctors or hospital. You may get help from them regarding the physical side of things, but the mental side may be up to the patient, and those close to them. Here are some things they can do before surgery in order to minimize the effects of depression.

  1. Do Research: Part of the fear of surgery is due to the fact that the patient simply may not know what to expect afterwards. This is easily remedied by doing a little studying. Read up on the specific surgery in books or online, and ask the doctor what should be expected after the surgery. It may also be comforting to speak with others who have gone through the same ordeal.
  2. Exercise: This should be done anyway, no matter if surgery is involved or not, but if it’s not already a part of the patient’s everyday life, it should be even more so now. Exercise will not only strengthen the body and heart, preparing it for the huge change that accompanies surgery, but it also improves mood, self-esteem, body image, and overall quality of life. It’s these little boosts that just might help get over the depression that could follow surgery. This course on exercising with a foam roller may be helpful to those with limited mobility.
  3. Keep Friends Close: It will be tough to get through a surgery no matter what, but it’s nearly impossible if done solo. Make sure loved ones are surrounding the patient whenever they need it. Don’t feel pressure to always be entertaining, because sometimes just the fact that someone is close is good enough.
  4. Get Counseling: If a doctor feels a patient is especially at risk of depression, they should prepare for that possibility by offering counseling before the surgery even takes place.
  5. Test Medication: Though there are other, healthier ways to alleviate both the physical and mental pain of surgery in many cases, there are times when medication will help the patient, especially anti-depressants.

Depression Symptoms

Just because one goes through a surgery, that doesn’t mean that they will definitely get depressed, and even if they do, it might not happen suddenly, or even be that obvious to those around them. It may be tough for the patient herself to tell if she are becoming depressed, but it’s up to those around her to notice any changes in her attitude. If someone close to you is recovering from surgery, be on the lookout for the following symptoms of depression:

  • Always fatigued
  • Insomnia (This article on how to cure insomnia may help those suffering from lack of sleep.), or sleeping more than usual
  • Eating significantly more or less than usual, resulting in unusual weight gain or loss
  • Unexpectedly crying many times during the day
  • Threats of self-harm
  • Loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy
  • Low motivation
  • Difficulty making decisions

How to Beat the Depression

If it turns out you or a someone you care about has these symptoms, and they have post-surgery depression, there are many things that can be done in order to alleviate this potentially serious issue. Dealing with post-operative depression is much like dealing with depression not associated with surgery, but is just a bit touchier given the fact that the patient is coming off the traumatic experience of surgery. The following real-life activities may be done in order to keep the patient out of their funk.

  • As soon as possible, do as much exercise as is physically capable and allowed to do. Even if this means just taking a walk to the end of the block and back, that will work wonders. Not only will it help build up the strength post-surgery, it will also provide a much-needed change of scenery that may help pick up the spirits of the patient.
  • Stick to a sleep plan. Even though the patient will be cooped up in bed while recovering, it’s best that they don’t sleep away the day. Like any other healthy adult, the patient should be sleeping the amount of time that is good for them (+/- eight hours), making sure to set an alarm to wake them up in the morning. After waking up, make sure they get dressed in everyday clothes, and not staying in their pajamas all day.
  • Just like before the surgery, staying connected with friends and family is extremely important for recovery. Even on the days when no one can make it over to visit, there’s always the phone, as well as Facebook, and other social media to keep everyone connected.
  • Don’t keep the anger bottled up. That’s what friends and professionals are there for. There may be a risk of the patient feeling like a burden if they are complaining about what’s going on, and if friends and family need a break, there are doctors, therapists, and other professionals who get paid to do exactly that: listen.
  • Finally, just be healthy. This should be a continuation of habits started well before any surgery or other physical ailments, but the post-op patient needs to adopt a philosophy of physical health, as well as mental health. They should take any supplements that may be beneficial, and eat a healthy diet while recovering. And who knows, maybe it will continue well after the recovery process has finished. This course on healthy eating will help anyone change their lifestyle habits for the best.

If you or a loved one is dealing with the one-two punch of having to go through a surgery, then deal with the depression associated with that major ordeal, there are many avenues to turn to for help. The power of positivity should never be underestimated, especially by those in this unique and unfortunate situation. If things get bad enough, don’t forget that there are countless options to explore, two of which are acupressure and group therapy. This course on treating depression with acupressure, as well as this course on cognitive behavioral group therapy for depression, may be helpful for the patient or those close to them to try to alleviate their pain.