Is Your Mental Health at Risk after Surgery?

Is Your Mental Health at Risk after Surgery?

“Though my surgery was successful, I still feel sad”. This is a common feeling experienced by many people who have just had surgery. Whether major or minor, surgery can be a life-changing event. The road to recovery can often feel overwhelming and difficult.

According to studies, almost 24% of people report depression after surgery whereas 40% felt anxious. Despite these figures, depression and other mental health issues are often skipped while discussing post-operative care for the patient.

This begs the question: Why aren’t we talking about mental health after surgery?
Here, we would like to bring attention to the mental health of patients after surgery: the problems they face, and the way they can cope.

If you or your loved one underwent surgery or is prepping for one, learn how your mental health can be at risk and the ways it can be managed:

Common Mental Health Issues Faced After Surgery

  • Depression after surgery is one of the most common mental health issues that patients face. It is not uncommon for patients to experience persistent hopelessness and sadness after having an operation. Though post-surgery depression is a type of situational depression, the term is not uncommon in the medical community. Still, it is not discussed with patients. However, it is just like any other post-surgical complication and should be addressed accordingly.
  • Besides depression, many people also feel anxious about the results of their surgery. This can interfere with their ability to perform daily activities further increasing their anxiety. Many people also experience anxiety in the days leading up to the operation.
  • Individuals who had plastic surgery like breast augmentation also report having body dysmorphia. Less than 10% of patients feel satisfied with the results of their plastic surgery. This can lead to anxiety even about other body parts.

Ignoring the mental health of the patient can delay recovery. Thus, in addition to physical health, post-operative care should also focus on the psychological well-being of the patient.

Do certain surgeries put you at a higher risk of depression?

Though any type of surgery can make you feel depressed, some surgeries have a higher chance of causing depression. Studies have indicated that:

  • About 18-20% of cancer patients suffer from depression and anxiety following their cancer treatment.
  • 10 % of people who underwent knee surgery were depressed after the procedure
  • 20% of patients who had undergone coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery suffered from major depression
  • After a mastectomy, women can experience depression for up to 3 years
  • People who underwent limb removal are highly susceptible to depression
  • The prevalence of depression after stroke is about 80%.
  • Men who are diagnosed with sexual dysfunction, and urinary or bowel issues after surgery are more likely to be depressed.

If you are thinking of undergoing major surgery, you should discuss the risk of mental health issues with your provider and the facilities available to help you cope with them.

How do you know if your mental health is affected?

Sometimes the signs of poor mental health can be missed because they seem to overlap with the aftereffects of surgery. However, it is important to pay attention to these signs and look for the support you need. Some of these signs  are:

  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Feeling anxious or stressed
  • Difficulty in making decisions
  • Memory problems
  • Slow movements and speech
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sleeping more than usual

If these symptoms last for more than two weeks, then you may have post-surgery depression and you should get in touch with your healthcare provider.

Why surgery impacts mental health?

It is completely normal to have an emotional reaction to surgery. After the surgery,  patients have to depend on others before they make a complete recovery.  A loss of independence accompanied by pain and discomfort can trigger emotions that could lead to mental health issues like depression after surgery.  Some of the other risk factors for post-surgery depression are

  • Reaction to medicines and anesthesia: Patients can also experience depression because of pain medications or anesthesia. For instance, general anesthesia given during birthing can increase the risk of postpartum depression.
  • Worries about the risks and complications of the surgery: If you have undergone a high-risk surgery or are experiencing certain complications after your surgery, then you are more likely to develop depression.
  • Challenges in mobility: Patients are often advised to avoid excessive movement after surgery.  Restrictions in physical mobility can increase the chances of people feeling depressed.

Taking action

It is important to highlight the different ways in which you, your loved ones, and your doctor can contribute in keeping you mentally healthy after surgery.

1. Role of healthcare providers

  • Discuss the possibility of mental health issues after surgery with your patient
  • Refer them to a mental health professional if they are experiencing depression after surgery
  • Encourage patients to seek help if they are struggling with poor mental health
  • Include and prioritize counseling sessions in postoperative care

2. Your role 

  • Stay in touch with your doctor
  • Reach out to friends and family if you are worried or anxious
  • Do light exercises and go out in nature
  • Follow a healthy diet
  • Try to maintain a sleep schedule

3. Role of caregivers

  • Be supportive
  • Try to be a positive distraction by encouraging fun and engaging activities
  • Try to be present during the recovery period
  • Take over some of the responsibilities to reduce stress and anxiety

How MediGence can help in managing post-surgery mental health?

MediGence realizes how important it is to prioritize mental well-being after surgery. Our rehabilitation services are led by multidisciplinary professionals who can ease your transition to a normal life. This can help you manage your anxiety and other worries you may have while adjusting to your new life after surgery. Since we believe that good mental health is essential for faster recovery, our uniquely crafted treatment packages come with post-operative care to take care of your mental health needs.

Final thoughts

Many factors can put you at risk of mental health issues after surgery. If you are struggling with your mental health, it is important to remember that you are not alone in this. By relying on the support of loved ones and your doctor, you can make a comeback and begin to feel like your true self again.

Let’s acknowledge the fact that mental health should be discussed and made a global priority for everyone’s well-being!


Last modified on blank at Apr 10, 2024

Reviewed By :- Vijita Jayan

Urvi Agrawal

Urvi is an avid reader who is passionate about writing. Having worked in hospital settings like AIIMS, She has experience working as a healthcare writer and has written about many healthcare and medical topics. Besides her role as a content specialist, she likes to spend her time cooking, dancing, and painting. She believes that positive thinking is crucial for being happy.

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