Post Operative Depression

What You May Not Know About Post Operative Depression

With over 20 million surgeries performed every year in the United States, addressed the issue of post operative depression is crucial.  Though doctors may celebrate what seems to be a completely successful operation, patients are enduring feelings of misery and despair; sometimes for weeks following the procedure.




Depression has many causes.  It sometimes occurs for no apparent reason, and disappears just as quickly.  At other times, it takes up residence in an individual’s mind; taking over their lives and attitudes for long periods.  It can be caused by an imbalance in the system, by certain medications or due to external and internal conflicts.  One cause that comes as somewhat of a surprise to many is surgery.

Becoming depressed after having surgery is very common, although the reason that it does occur is rather a mystery.  Many suspect anesthetics that are administered, while others believe that underlying disorders are to blame.  Anemia, hypoglycemia, deficiencies in minerals or vitamins as well as the imbalances that can occur with hormones may all play some part in the state of mind of the patient.

Depression is always a condition that is taken seriously, but even more so after surgery has taken place.  The symptoms experienced by the surgical patient can drastically interfere with the task of rehabilitation and recuperation.   Depressive thoughts often lead to lack of interest in taking care of yourself and healing is then compromised to the point it can be delayed.


There are specific symptoms that are exhibited by individuals suffering from post operative depression, including:

These feelings may not appear immediately after surgery, but in many cases do not appear until weeks later when the individual has begun to return to their normal lifestyle and routine.

Detecting depression

Sadly, many doctors disregard or never know their patient is experiencing depression.  They believe that certain feelings and symptoms go hand in hand with the burden of surgery; weight loss or loss of appetite, for example, may be normal for certain internal organs as they adjust to being manipulated during surgery.  Sleep issues could be simple anxiety left over from the procedure.  Instead of recognizing and treating the depression, doctors often do nothing to treat the condition except to tell their patient to return to their daily routine to help regain control.  Too often, it is the patient who insists that their feelings of depression be treated that finally captures the attention of the doctor.


This attitude of the doctor is not out of indifference or disinterest.  Perhaps if every surgical patient responded in the same manner after surgery, the problem would be better documented and the treatment more clear.  However, a great many patients never experience depression to the level that others do.  There are no clear cut patterns for people who will develop depressive symptoms, and therefore it is impossible to detect who will or will not become depressed and to what extent.


Some patients are able to bring their feelings of depression under control on their own.  Many, however, require treatment to help them through this difficult and confusing period.  Therapy that allows the patient to talk about their thoughts and fears will often help them to overcome depression, as well as talking to friends and family members.  In some cases, medication may become necessary.

Post operative depression is a common condition that affects a large number of people, yet often goes undetected by the medical field.  Feelings of despair and misery can detrimentally affect a patient’s recovery, and must be dealt with immediately to assist not only for the patient’s emotional well being but their physical well being as well.