How to Cope With Post-Surgery Depression

Surgery is a hugely stressful event. There are many factors in play — finances, recovery, the actual operation, physical changes, and more. One important factor that you might not put as much weight on is the stress it puts on your mental health.

We all know surgery can be a high-risk physical endeavor but we don’t always pay attention to the effect it has on our mental well-being. While most follow-ups to the doctor are usually concerned with the physical recovery, it’s also extremely important that we track our mental health condition post-surgery.

Specifically, we should track changes in our behavior post-surgery that could signify depression.

Depression is a very common illness that can occur post-surgery. But it doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

We undergo a physical change during surgery and that can bring a lot of change in our emotional health, mental health, and energy levels.

If we can recognize and plan for the possibility of depression, then we can prevent depression from taking a toll on our path to recovery.

Symptoms of Post-Surgery Depression

It might be hard to distinguish the symptoms of post-surgery depression from typical after-effects of surgery. While some symptoms like oversleeping and loss of appetite are considered normal after-effects for some surgeries, it can mean depression if the problem becomes long-term.

Other signs that you or a loved one might be suffering from postoperative depression include:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Excessive sleeping or undersleeping
  • Ongoing irritability
  • Feelings of dread and hopelessness
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of interest in usual hobbies

As we mentioned, normal postoperative surgery might have similar symptoms to after-surgery depression. That’s why it’s important to track these symptoms and note how long they go on after the recovery process period.

Some of the symptoms are unique to the mental health condition, especially the symptoms of hopelessness, dread, and loss of interest in usual hobbies. When you can recognize and attribute these symptoms to post-surgery depression, you can create a plan that helps you cope with it.

What Causes Post-Surgery Depression?

Understanding what can cause post-surgery depression can be helpful in coming up with a plan to manage it.

Here a few of the biggest causes of post-surgery depression symptoms:

Chronic Pain

Chronic pain has a big correlation with depression after surgery; in fact, 30 to 100 percent of those who suffer from chronic pain suffer from depression. While medication can be used to deal with chronic pain, alternative strategies like deep breathing and physical therapy can provide additional support.

Dealing With Mortality

Not all surgeries are a life or death situation but all have the potential to be dangerous. Death can be a frightening idea and the thought of menacing medical tools does not help.

The Physical Stress of Recovery

When you undergo a surgery that requires physical rehabilitation, you have the responsibility of working your body back to its normal state in addition to the stresses of the surgery. These changes can stress your tired muscles which have gone through a lot.

Loneliness in Pain and Recovery

When you are dealing with the pain and recovery process after surgery, you might feel alone in our struggles. Unfortunately, loneliness can lead to many different disorders including depression.

Negative Reaction to Painkillers or Anesthesia

Some people might react adversely to certain painkillers and wouldn’t know it until they started taking it because of a surgery. The same goes for anesthesia.

High-Risk Surgeries and Depression

Another important factor to look into is the type of surgery that one will undergo. While there is no specific surgery that causes depression, different surgeries have a higher mortality risk which may play a part in the risk of depression. These high-risk surgeries often have chronic pain as a side effect.

The surgeries with high risk of depression include the following:

  • Heart surgery
  • Gastric bypass surgery
  • Brain surgery
  • Hip replacements
  • Hysterectomy
  • Cancer-related surgeries
  • Mastectomy
  • Plastic surgery

How to Cope With Post-Surgery Depression

Talk to Your Doctor

Depression is a serious illness and should be treated by a medical professional. If you recognize the symptoms of depression in yourself or a friend, reach out to your doctor to create a strategy for coping with it.

Find Positivity

A little positivity can go a long way to improve your overall health. Negative thinking can act as a form of stress on your mental health.

As we covered in many of our previous blogs, there is a strong connection between mind and body wellness. It might be hard to find positivity when faced with chronic pain, but if you take a moment to breathe, practice gratitude, and be mindful of the current moment, you can train yourself to notice the positive.

Take a moment to be aware of your mental state and practice a deep breath; Spire can help you track both to get you back on the path of better health.

Get Fresh Air

Going outside for a few moments each day is beneficial not only for getting fresh air into your lungs but in breaking up the monotony of being in the same environment every day.

If you’re able, a short walk outdoors in nature is especially productive in boosting your mood and decreasing levels of anxiety.


Regular exercise already has numerous health benefits such as strengthening important muscles and internal systems, so it comes as no surprise that it is also an effective way to cope with depression after surgery. Exercise creates important changes in your brain and is a natural treatment that can be just as effective as medication in combating depression symptoms.

Establish and Follow a Routine

Creating a healthy routine that provides you with a sleep schedule and a plan for mealtime is a good way to ensure that you take care of yourself. Establishing a routine can you help you think less about any uncertainty in the day-to-day details. Sometimes it’s relieving to know that there is one less decision to make.

Find Support

How to Cope With Post-Surgery Depression

There are methods to combat the loneliness that plays a big role in causing depression. Find a support group of others who have gone through the same surgery or make an appointment to see a therapist. Talking to a healthcare professional about your experience and listening to others share their experiences fosters a sense of connection. Asking friends or family members to check in on you is another great way to feel supported during the recovery process.

Humans are social creatures and even small moments of connection can help bring us back into the light.

Pre-Emptive Planning

Being prepared for post-surgery is just as essential as being prepared for the surgery itself. While we might be fully aware of the physical illnesses that could come from after surgery, we should also be aware of any mental health issues during the recovery process.

One big step is to be informed of the potential of depression. We can do this by recognizing these important symptoms and asking others to help monitor our condition as well. It’s also important to note that those who might already be suffering or have suffered from depression should reach out to their doctor beforehand. Dealing with any pre-existing mental health conditions is essential for maintaining a healthy mental state after surgery.

The more informed we are about our mental health in relation to surgeries, the more we can prevent depression and get back to a healthy state of well-being.

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