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Postoperative Depression Symptoms

15 Postoperative Depression Symptoms You Should Know

Writen By: Huma Khan
Reviewed By: Huma Khan
Publish Date: October 29, 2023

In the operating room, where doctors work their magic to fix our bodies, there’s a hidden challenge. Sometimes, even after the physical healing begins, our emotions can take a hit. We call them Postoperative Depression Symptoms. When the aches and pains are fading, these emotional struggles can be overwhelming, leaving us feeling powerless in our battle against illness.

Postoperative depression is a condition when people feel unhappy, helpless, and uninterested in or bored with their daily activities after undergoing surgery. It’s crucial to realize that postoperative depression is a separate illness from the common mood swings that might happen after surgery.

The rate of depression after surgery was examined in a study, which found that about 30% of patients have postoperative depression symptoms in the months after surgery. This is often a temporary effect that arises from the tension and worry about the surgery and from the expected results of the surgery. The study also discovered that postoperative depression was more likely to occur in patients who had experienced preoperative depression symptoms or anxiety earlier in life.

So keep reading, as this blog post will address postoperative depression symptoms, causes, and treatments, giving you a better understanding of what and how your loved one may be experiencing.

What Is Postoperative Depression?

Postoperative depression, commonly referred to as post-surgical depression or post-surgery depression, is a psychiatric illness that can develop following surgery. It is characterized by a long-lasting feeling of sadness after having surgery. It’s when you feel more than just the usual discomfort from surgery that can make your recovery harder. 

The impact of this disorder on a person’s mental and emotional health can be far worse than the typical mood fluctuations that can occur following surgery. It can also have an impact on a person’s physical recovery, as those who have postoperative depression may have delayed wound healing, making it a severe condition. Researchers think that a significant portion of people may experience postoperative depression, though not everyone who undergoes surgery will experience the disorder.

According to research, the rate of postoperative depression might vary significantly depending on the type of operation and patient demographic being researched. For instance, if we talk about heart surgeries, the American Heart Association’s (AHA) Trusted Source shows that depression affects around 25% of patients who have had heart surgery. This figure is important because, according to the American Heart Association, having a positive and healthy mindset can help with fast recovery.

15 Common Postoperative Depression Symptoms

Postoperative depression can manifest in various ways. Here are 15 common symptoms to watch out for:

1. Overwhelming sadness: 

An individual suffering from postoperative depression could experience deep grief and pessimism over their recovery and long-term health. For example, a patient may have intense feelings of sorrow and hopelessness as they struggle to recover from surgery and believe they will never be able to engage in the things they formerly found enjoyable.

2. Feelings of despair or hopelessness: 

A person suffering from postoperative depression could believe there is little hope for their healing or long-term health, which can result in feelings of hopelessness. For example, a patient may believe their suffering will never end, which makes them despondent about their prognosis.

3. Intense irritability or anger: 

Even in circumstances that would not ordinarily elicit such sentiments, postoperative depression can make a person easily agitated or furious. For instance, if they become angry with their family or caretakers, a sufferer could strike out.

4. Feelings of guilt or worthlessness: 

Sometimes a person is making every effort to recover, but postoperative depression can make them feel useless or terrible about their progress. For example, a patient could have emotions of inadequacy and unworthiness, and they may feel guilty about needing help from others.

5. Anxiety, including excessive worrying and restlessness: 

Postoperative depression may cause agitation and anxiety, which makes a person too concerned about their recovery and long-term health. Sometimes, a person who is recovering may have excessive concern and restlessness due to anxiety over potential issues that may develop during their recovery.

6. Excessive guilt: 

Postoperative depression may make a person feel too guilty about circumstances they cannot change, including their recovery. Even though they have no control over the fact that they’ll require help while recovering, patients can feel terrible for burdening their loved ones.

7. Fatigue and lack of energy: 

Postoperative depression may make it difficult for a person to take part in their rehabilitation since they may feel exhausted and lack the energy to carry out everyday tasks. For cases where a patient could be too exhausted to participate in sessions of physical therapy or carry out suggested exercises, which would hinder the healing process. 

8. Changes in appetite: 

A person’s appetite may be impacted by postoperative depression, prompting them to consume more or less than normal. Because of a lack of interest or drive, a patient can lose their desire to eat and stop eating regularly, which might result in unexpected weight loss and a longer recovery.

9. Sleep disturbance: 

Postoperative depression may result in sleep problems, including trouble falling or staying asleep. This could be brought on by fear or physical pain from the procedure. Most of the time, a patient may struggle to sleep because of pain at the location of their incision.

10. Difficulty concentrating

Postoperative depression may impair one’s ability to focus or make judgments. This can be because of the surgery’s mental and emotional toll or a side effect from a drug. A patient in a bad mood can find it difficult to focus on the postoperative exercises that are advised.

11. Physical complaints

Physical issues, including headaches, body pains, or digestive problems, might result from postoperative depression. For example, a patient may have frequent headaches as a result of sadness, stress related to the operation, and worry.

12. Social withdrawal: 

A patient suffering from postoperative depression may avoid social situations and contacts, which could be brought on by remorse or guilt regarding their recovery process, as well as a lack of drive and desire. For instance, a patient could postpone social plans to avoid having their rehabilitation plan questioned.

13. Loss of interest in activities: 

A person suffering from postoperative depression could stop being interested in past interests, such as hobbies or social gatherings. This could be brought on by a lack of drive or desperation, like a patient who decides to quit going to their weekly fitness session because they are unmotivated or uninterested.

14. Changes in libido:

Changes in sexual activity, such as a lack of sexual desire or trouble eliciting orgasm, can result from postoperative depression. For instance, a patient may experience a lack of sexual desire as a result of discomfort with their bodies or a bad body image.

15. Thoughts of self-harm or suicidal thoughts:

Attempting suicide or having self-harming ideas might arise as a result of postoperative depression. This can be the result of extreme sadness and hopelessness. For example, a patient can consider harming themselves as a result of the stress and worry associated with their recovery.

Postoperative depression symptoms
15 postoperative depression symptoms you should know 2

Surgeries that have a higher risk of depression

The depression after surgery Symptoms may vary and increase after certain types of surgeries. These may include:

  • Major operations: Operations with a prolonged recovery time or intense discomfort or pain, such as heart surgery or replacement of a joint, might exacerbate depressive symptoms.
  • Neurological procedures: Due to the possible effects on cognitive function and physical capabilities, procedures affecting the brain or spinal cord, such as the removal of brain tumors or the repair of spinal cord injuries, can have an influence on mental health.
  • Cosmetic procedures: While not all people who have cosmetic surgery suffer depression, some may struggle with excessive expectations or feel insecure about their looks, which can affect their mood.
  • Mastectomy: Women who have a mastectomy, which involves surgically removing one or both of their breasts, may face issues with their bodies, a sense of loss, and mental discomfort, which might raise their risk of depression.
  • Hysterectomy or Gynecological Surgeries: Surgeries involving the reproductive system, like hysterectomies or other gynecological procedures, can sometimes trigger hormonal imbalances or bring about changes in sexual health, potentially leading to emotional distress or depression.
  • Organ transplant: Because it entails uncertainty and adjusting to a new organ, obtaining a transplant of an organ can be emotionally taxing. Following a transplant, immunosuppressant drug use may potentially aggravate depressive symptoms.
  • Weight loss methods: Bariatric procedures, which include gastric bypass surgery or gastric sleeve operations, can have considerable positive effects on the body and the mind. However, the quick weight reduction and major nutritional modifications required might occasionally cause mood swings or make it difficult to adapt to the new way of life.

Causes of Postoperative Depression Symptoms 

  • Physical and Mental Stress: Surgery places a great deal of stress on the body, which can cause physical and emotional weariness. This may alter the brain’s neurotransmitter activity and hormone levels, perhaps resulting in depression.
  • Pain and Discomfort: Chronic pain is known to raise one’s risk of developing depression, and postoperative discomfort and pain can be difficult to manage. The physical pain can also disrupt sleep patterns, aggravating tired and depressed sensations.
  • Medications and anesthetics: During surgery, the use of anesthetics as well as certain drugs may have an effect on mood management. The adverse effects of some drugs, such as fluctuating moods, irritability, or appetite changes, might hasten the onset of depression.
  • Change in Body Image: Cosmetic surgery or mastectomy, both of which involve altering one’s appearance, might cause changes in body image. It can be emotionally difficult to adapt to these changes, which may increase feelings of despair, self-doubt, or irritation.
  • Social Isolation: Following surgery, it’s common to need some downtime and restricted movement. Feelings of loneliness and a decline in social contact may result from this, which may exacerbate depression symptoms.
  • Previous Psychological Conditions: Due to the additional stress and disturbance brought on by surgery, people who have a previous history of mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety, may be more susceptible to developing postoperative depression.
  • Lack of support: Patients who experience a lack of support after surgery may feel overwhelmed and alone, which can result in unfavorable feelings and depressive symptoms. Social support can help patients cope with the difficulties of recovery and lower their risk of depression by providing them with emotional and practical assistance.

Impact of Post-Surgery Depression on Recovery

Depression has been found in several studies to be a separate risk factor for a diagnosis of postoperative depression, which might be the reason and cause for poor recovery after the surgery.

  • Healing may take longer than expected due to depression’s physiological impacts on the body. It can impair the body’s capacity to resist infection or heal tissues and weaken the immune system.
  • Greater sensitivity to pain: Depression can intensify the sensation of suffering, making the healing process painful and difficult.
  • Lessened motivation and participation: People suffering from post-surgical depression might not have the drive or stamina to engage in therapy sessions or adhere to recovery instructions. This might slow down the healing process and make it take longer.
  • Poor drug compliance: Depression can impair a person’s ability to take their medications as directed, which can have detrimental effects on their health or result in inadequate pain management.
  • Disrupted sleeping patterns: Depression can result in disturbed sleep, which can impair the body’s capacity for restorative and recuperative processes.
  • Social withdrawal: People who are depressed may avoid social situations, which might reduce the availability of support networks that are essential for healing and emotional well-being.
  • Increase the risk of readmission: Patients with postoperative depression might be more likely to be readmitted as a result of complications or subpar healing.
  • Delayed back to work or everyday activities: Postoperative depression patients may find it difficult to resume their usual routines, such as employment, socializing, and leisure activities, which can lower their quality of life.
  • Costlier medical care: Postoperative depression may prolong the healing process, resulting in higher medical expenses from longer hospital stays, readmissions, and further therapies.
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts at suicide: are all more likely among those who have just had surgery. Before and after surgery, patients should be screened for depression, and proper mental health assistance should be given.

Surgery may be less successful if you have depression. A 2016 review by authors Trusted Source suggests that people with depression may postpone seeking medical care until their illness has worsened. To guarantee a full recovery, postoperative depression symptoms must be quickly identified and treated. The management of symptoms and encouragement of a healthy healing process can both be considerably aided by seeking professional assistance, such as speaking with a medical professional or therapist.

When to Seek Help

Postoperative depression symptoms may be indicated if you suffer depressive or anxious symptoms that last for a long time after surgery. A persistent sense of sadness or feeling empty, a loss of interest in once-pleasurable activities, shifts in appetite, fatigue or lack of energy, difficulty concentrating or remembering details, a sense of feeling worthless or overbearing guilt, and even thoughts of suicide or other acts that are self-destructive are all signs of postoperative depression.

To appropriately identify and treat postoperative depression, it is crucial to get assistance from a professional in mental health or a medical providers if you are exhibiting any of these symptoms. To begin, speak with your surgeon or primary healthcare physician about your worries and get a recommendation for a mental health specialist.

Preventive and Coping Strategies

In order to reduce the likelihood of acquiring this illness and successfully manage symptoms, prevention and coping mechanisms for post-operative depression are crucial.

  • Have a Supporting System: Surround yourself with others who can understand you, encourage you, and be there for you emotionally. Friends, family, assistance groups, and internet communities can all fall into this category.
  • Express Your Feelings: Honest, free emotional expression may be healing. Consider writing as a means to express your thoughts and feelings, or talk to someone you have faith in about what you’re dealing with.
  • Put Relaxation Techniques to Use: Try progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, or meditation as relaxation techniques. These methods can aid in stress reduction and mental wellness.
  • Be Active: Regular physical activity can help improve your psychological well-being by generating endorphins, enhancing sleep, and lowering anxiety. Discuss appropriate physical activity with your healthcare professional while keeping in mind your healing process.
  • Seek Professional Assistance: Don’t be afraid to get in touch with mental health experts like therapists, counselors, or psychologists who may offer direction and assistance catered to your particular needs.
  • Have Realistic Expectations: Recognize that, both physically and emotionally, recovery takes time. Be tolerant of the healing process and set realistic objectives for yourself.
  • Embrace Self-Care: Look after your general well-being by doing things you like, eating wholesome food, getting adequate sleep, and indulging in enjoyable hobbies.
  • Maintain Your Knowledge: Become informed about your ailment, surgery, and recuperation time. Anxiety and uncertainty can be lessened by knowledge and understanding.


Postoperative depression symptoms are symptoms of a psychiatric disorder that can develop following surgery. It goes beyond the standard post-surgical blues and can have a substantial influence on a person’s general well-being and recovery, even though it is common to have some emotional ups and downs following surgery.

Here are a few condensed highlights on postoperative depression symptoms therapy:

1.Therapy: Consult a therapist who can help you manage stress, give emotional support, and tackle underlying issues; cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) would also be a great option to treat it.

2. Drugs: Antidepressant drugs may occasionally be recommended to help control brain chemistry and elevate mood.

3. Support Groups: Participating in group therapy or support groups helps foster a sense of belonging and comprehension.

4. Lifestyle Modifications: Reduce alcohol and drug usage, eat a healthy diet, get adequate sleep, and exercise regularly.

5. Social Support: Associate yourself with people who will be there for you during your rehabilitation, such as family and friends.

Recall that a proper diagnosis and individualized treatment plan require consultation with medical experts.


In conclusion, receiving postoperative depression symptoms therapy is crucial for conquering this difficult situation. Individuals can successfully manage and overcome postoperative depression by adhering to five key recommendations, which include seeing a therapist, using medicine if necessary, joining groups for support, adopting positive lifestyle changes, and obtaining social support. It’s critical to keep in mind that every person’s path is distinct, making it necessary to speak with healthcare specialists to create a personalized treatment plan. People may find ways to get back to their emotional well-being and improve their standard of living with time, effort, and the correct tools.

The fact that postoperative depression is a prevalent but manageable disease must be emphasized. The symptoms and signs of depression after surgery should be understood by patients and loved ones, and if any changes in behavior or mood are noticed, they should seek professional assistance.


Q1. How long does anesthesia induce depression last?

The length of time that anesthetic-induced depression lasts varies from patient to patient and is influenced by a number of variables, such as the kind of anesthesia used, the person’s pre-existing mental health issues, and the depth of the depression. It can occasionally persist for a few weeks to a few months following surgery.

Q2. Is depression a side effect of surgery?

Yes, surgery can have a negative impact on depression. Numerous things, including pain, medicine, anesthesia, hormonal fluctuations, and stress from the procedure and recuperation, might contribute to it.

Q3. What are the stages of emotions after surgery?

While postoperative relief, discomfort, anguish, anger, and emotional ups and downs throughout the healing process are all possible stages of postoperative emotions, they might differ from person to person.

Q4. What are the symptoms of post-op anxiety?

Post-operative depression might include physical symptoms including sweating, shaking, elevated heart rate, restlessness, stress, irritability, and agitation, as well as difficulties sleeping and panic episodes.

Q5. Can anesthesia cause temporary depression?

 It is true that anesthesia can briefly induce depression. It’s thought to have something to do with the anesthesia’s effects on the brain’s neurotransmitter levels.

Q6. Can surgery cause depression?

Depression can indeed result after surgery, as discovered in many studies. For example, an examination of depression in intensive care units discovered that 28% of patients who had surgery had depression.

Q7. How long does it take to feel normal after surgery?

The recovery period varies depending on the patient and the kind of operation, but it usually takes a few days or even weeks or months.

Q8. What is the mental fog after surgery?

The mental fog shortly after surgery is a prolonged condition marked by problems with memory, focus, and other cognitive abilities brought on by a variety of elements, including anesthesia, inflammatory conditions, and stress. After surgery, it normally gets better in a couple of weeks up to a few months.