Emotional Wellbeing

Mental Health

Mandy Kloppers

Prioritizing Your Mental Health After Surgery

In the U.S. alone, millions of surgeries are performed each year. Some are riskier than others, and some require a longer recovery period. When people are in recovery after surgery, their physical health is typically the priority.

Of course, it’s important for your body to heal and get stronger after a procedure. But, more studies are suggesting that your mental health should also be a high priority, since it’s not uncommon for a strong percentage of people to experience a decline in it after a surgical event.

So, how can you know if your mental health is declining after surgery? What signs should you look out for, and how can you take care of your mental state before things get out of hand?

What Are the Signs of Depression After Surgery?

One of the most common mental health issues after surgery is depression. There are plenty of reasons why post-surgical patients struggle after a procedure, including:

●A history of mental health issues before surgery
●Pain following the procedure
●Reactions to anesthesia or medications
●Facing mortality
●Time of recovery
●Financial costs
●Anxiety over returning home and having to take care of yourself

Whatever the cause, there is one major problem surrounding all of them – they aren’t talked about enough.

Most medical professionals will offer advice and tell you what to expect as you recover from your procedure. But, they don’t often warn about mental health complications. Recognizing the signs, yourself, can make it easier to get the help you need as soon as possible. Some of those symptoms include fatigue, changes in your sleeping or eating habits, or difficulty making decisions. Your attitude about things might change, too. Many people who experience depression after surgery are irritable, restless, and may have feelings of hopelessness or worry.

If you’re worried about the state of your mental health, even before you have surgery, taking proactive steps before and after can help you to keep it under control for a true full recovery. But, how can you do that?

Getting the Rest You Need

Rest is obviously important for your physical healing. But, it can also benefit your mental health. A lack of sleep can worsen your depression or anxiety after a procedure for several reasons. First, not sleeping makes it easy to “over-think”. Your feelings of hopelessness or sadness might become worse.

A lack of sleep also tends to cause excess stress, which can wreak havoc on your mind and body. Poor sleep can lead to an increase in chronic pain. When you’re trying to recover from a surgical event, that kind of pain can make your depression worse. It can also make it even harder to sleep.

As you can see, it’s a vicious cycle that needs to be broken.

If you’re having a hard time getting the rest your mind and body need, it’s important to seek out medical attention. Getting your pain under control can help, and your doctor may be able to help with that. It can also help to find rest and relaxation in other ways, by doing things you enjoy and things that will provide both mental and physical strength, including:

●Light exercise
●Spending time outside
●Focusing on the positives
●Eating a healthy diet

Try to be as active as possible during the day, even if that means walking around your neighborhood or staying mentally active by reading a book or playing games. This can help you get your sleep cycle back on track, so you can get a better night’s sleep and heal faster.

Talking About Your Feelings

If your surgery went well and you’re recovering nicely, you might not feel comfortable talking about any negative thoughts. In fact, you might be holding back because those thoughts make you feel selfish or guilty.

But, if you’re struggling mentally, talking things out is one of the best ways to get through it. When you start to focus on your mental health, you’ll realize it’s just as important as the physical healing required after a surgical procedure.

If you feel like you can’t do the things you used to, you might be grieving that loss – and that’s okay to talk about. If you feel as though people are treating you differently and you wish things could go back to “normal” – that’s okay to talk about.

You should never invalidate your own feelings or try to weaken their worth. Talk to friends or family members if you’re comfortable. If not, consider joining a support group, or talking to a therapist. If you’re not currently able to leave your house, take advantage of teletherapy and talk to a professional from your own home.


Your mind and body need to work together in tandem to provide a full recovery after surgery. Taking care of both is important, so don’t forget to give your mental state the attention it needs following a procedure.


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