Depression, Illness and Surgery: Signs and Symptoms

After Surgery: Signs and Symptoms of Depression or a Normal Recovery?

Mature female patient sitting on exam table in exam room looking down
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Depression and Illness

Depression is not uncommon after surgery, or even after a diagnosis that leads to surgery. Getting bad news and feeling bad physically can trigger an episode of depression, or make depression that is already present even worse.  

It shouldn't come as a surprise that feeling bad emotionally and feeling bad physically often go hand in hand.  The big problem is that many people don't identify what they are feeling as depression--which can be treated easily in most people--and instead think that they are feeling the effects of their physical illness.


So what is depression, exactly?

Depression is a serious illness psychological illness that can lead to impaired decision making, difficulty with day to day life and it can even lead to physical illness, such as slowing healing in some cases.

Signs and Symptoms of Depression

  • Eating significantly more or less than is normal
  • Sleeping significantly more or less than is normal
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty making decisions, even minor ones
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Feelings of hopelessness and despair
  • Thoughts of suicide - Seek immediate help

Note that some of these physical symptoms are hard to distinguish from the after-effects of surgery -- since surgery can affect your sleep, appetite and energy -- but those that affect the emotions should definitely trigger an assessment by a mental health professional.

Stress, including emotional stress such as a diagnosis of illness, and physical stress such as surgery, can trigger depression.

Physical conditions, including conditions that cause chronic pain, a shortened life expectancy or radical changes in lifestyle can also lead to depression. People with a family history of depression may be more likely to develop depression in times of stress or illness.

While there are many people who are given a serious and life-altering diagnosis, depression does not affect everyone in the same way.

Being aware of the signs and symptoms of depression is important so that it can be quickly identified and treated.

If you, or a loved one, experience the following symptoms for two weeks or longer, seek a professional assessment immediately.

More Information: Answers To Common Questions After Surgery


Signs and Symptoms of Depression. National Institutes of Health.

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