The Connection Between Surgery Recovery and Mental Health Struggles

The Connection Between Surgery Recovery and Mental Health Struggles

Around the globe, it’s estimated that over 230 million surgeries are performed each year. Some are more invasive than others, and some go smoother than anticipated. But, even if your surgery and recovery go according to plan, you might still find yourself struggling mentally.

One study found that 24% of patients described themselves as depressed after surgery, while 40% suggested they were anxious.

Understanding the connection between surgery, recovery, and mental health issues can make it easier to start treating a potential issue before it gets out of hand. Going through surgery isn’t easy. But, you shouldn’t have to live with lingering depression, anxiety, or stress afterwards.

Thankfully, the more you understand about the link and signs to look out for, the sooner you can start on a road to restoring your mental health as well as your physical wellbeing.

Why Does Surgery Recovery Cause Depression?

Several factors play into why surgery can cause mental health struggles, including depression. One of the most prominent, however, is the fact that you might not feel like “yourself” for a while. Even if your recovery process is going well, you might think it’s taking too long to be who you once were.

Or, maybe you’ll never be able to do the same things.

If you’re expected to make a full recovery, that doesn’t necessarily make the process easier. You might feel like you’re missing out on things or that life is passing you by. People’s lives keep moving forward and you may not be able to attend events, social gatherings, or even holiday get-togethers the way you want to.

Feeling limited in any way can make it easy to fall into sadness, and worry about whether you’ll ever get back to your “normal” self can cause anxiety to come knocking.

Other factors that can contribute to depression and anxiety post-surgery include:

  • Reaction(s) to treatment or medications
  • Having a history of mental health issues
  • Feeling guilty as you depend on others
  • Worries that surgery won’t fix what’s wrong

You might also start to struggle with your mental health when you see your hospital bills. It’s not uncommon for people who just went through surgery to deal with financial struggles. Thankfully, there are ways to pay off your debt quickly, (in some countries such as the USA, this also can including asking for forgiveness if you’re the right kind of candidate). Don’t be afraid to do your research about forgiveness programs or financial aid. If your mental health is at stake because of your financial situation, you should always ask for help when it’s needed.

Whether you feel like you’re being robbed of your own life, or you’re struggling with other aspects of a post-surgery lifestyle, understanding the link between recovery and your mental health can make it easier to see a potential problem.

How Can You Improve Your Mental Health After Surgery?

The first step in managing your mental health after surgery is recognizing that you’re struggling. Understanding the symptoms of depression, for example, can make it clearer to you and the people in your life that you might need some help. Depression can manifest itself in many ways.

Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Changes in sleeping habits
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Fatigue
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Guilt
  • Sadness

Depression can also show up as anger or aggression. Most of the recurring thoughts that fuel the anger are unwanted, but can start to feel unavoidable and out of your control. It’s easy to see how this condition, and others, can start to take over your life and even impact those around you.

So, what can you do?

The best thing is to reach out for professional help. You might not be able to reprocess your thoughts on your own, and a therapist or counsellor can guide you through it. Everything from staying active to practicing meditation and mindfulness every day can help you feel more in control of your mental health.

Surgery recovery can be a slow process, and it’s not uncommon to feel “down” for a while. But, if you start to notice that those feelings of sadness or fatigue are consuming all of your thoughts, reaching out for help sooner rather than later will get you through it until you’re back on your feet again.

About the Author

Jori  - headshot

Jori Hamilton is an experienced writer residing in the Northwestern U.S.

She covers a wide range of topics but takes a particular interest in covering topics related to health and wellness, including mental health awareness and addiction education.

You can follow Jori and learn more about her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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