Depression After Surgery

Often, when patients are told they require surgery, they prepare by considering what needs to happen for their physical needs and recovery. They plan who will help them, they take time off from work, and they determine insurance coverage, household matters and physical needs of recovery. Most do not consider the impact the surgery could have on their mental health.

For example, according to the American Heart Association, more than 25 percent of patients who have cardiac surgery experience depression. Even if you have never experienced a depressive episode, having heart surgery could have a profound impact on your overall mood.

It is important for you and those who are close to you to know the symptoms of depression, so you can get the appropriate help if necessary. The medical community has long acknowledged the mind-body connection; therefore, taking care of your mental health directly correlates with regaining improved physical health. A persistently sad or empty mood, loss of pleasure in activities you once enjoyed, feelings of worthlessness and/or hopelessness, irritability, change in sleep patterns and change in your appetite are symptoms of depression.

If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to make your primary care doctor or specialist aware, so that they can talk to you about the best intervention. Medication, counseling or both may be recommended. Doing both is the ideal situation. Medication will address the chemical aspects of depression, and counseling will assist with redirecting your thoughts and feelings to have a more positive impact on your mood and recovery.

In addition to medication and therapy, exercise (as guided by your doctor) can help boost elevating brain chemicals and help you feel like you are accomplishing something. Keeping some sort of routine also can give your spirits a boost. For example, get out of bed every day and change into clothes instead of wearing your pajamas all day to help you feel more connected with your previous routine. Complementary health services, once cleared by your doctor, are also helpful. Acupuncture can help with depressive symptoms, and meditation and other forms of stress-relieving activities may also be useful.

Addressing the entire person makes a significant difference in a successful recovery.

Need health care guidance or have a health care concern? Call 410-871-7000 and ask to speak to a Care Connect health navigator.

Stacey Hartman, LCSW-C, is a Care Connect psychosocial health navigator.

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