Is It Normal to Experience Depression After Surgery?

Even if you had planned on getting plastic surgery for months or years, on the day of the surgery, you may have felt anxious or questioned your decision. Soon after surgery, many people regret getting the surgery altogether. One common complication is depression after surgery.

It’s not just depression; many people experience a change in their emotional state. It’s important that you know about this before having the surgery so that you’re prepared. Also, it’s a good idea to explore the different causes of depression after surgery and how you can cope with it.

What Is Depression?

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), depression is “more than just sadness.” It can make you lose interest in all the activities that you may have once found pleasurable (anhedonia). It also affects the health of the individual where they may experience:

  • Fatigue and tiredness
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Weight fluctuations
  • Loss of energy
  • Indecisiveness
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Feelings of insignificance and worthlessness

Depression is one of the most common mental disorders. All these symptoms can hamper your normal day-to-day functioning. They can be mild to severe. And it is considered “depression” if a specific number of symptoms persist for more than 2 weeks. It can even last for months.

According to a large study published in the British Journal of Surgery, comprising almost 177,000 patients, patients who had anxiety or depression were more likely to experience wound complications after the surgery. It can slow down the healing process.

What Causes Depression After Surgery?

You might experience depression after plastic surgery because of the following reasons:

Feeling Vulnerable

One reason why some people experience depression after surgery is that they feel more vulnerable. There may be a sense of “loss of control;” it can happen even if the surgery is minimally invasive.

Your emotional state can suffer even before the surgery if you’re worried about how exactly the procedure will go and what will happen. After the surgery, many people feel sad because they have to rely on others for help or are unable to help with things that they usually did.

Concerns About Healing & Recovery

Right before the surgery, the feelings of joy, happiness, and excitement are common, but depression and nervousness can become a part of the emotional mix right after.

Many people who have seen the transformation journeys of other patients remember how they looked “before” and “after” (the final result). Many don’t see the journey in between, which can make them experience depression after surgery.

You might have feelings of regret after seeing yourself red, swollen, and bruised. It’s certainly not easy to see your bruised self every day and not end up thinking that something will go wrong or not turn out the way you wanted.

Many patients doubt the results of their liposuction or rhinoplasty procedures. The scarring from these surgeries becomes a huge cause for concern. They believe these scars won’t go away and constantly ruin the results of the procedure. In the case of breast augmentation, thoughts like, “I should’ve had bigger implants” are quite common.

General Anaesthesia

In the first few hours after the surgery, general anaesthesia can make you more emotionally sensitive and even anxious. Therefore, you can feel nervous and sad right after the procedure. However, after the effects of the anaesthesia wear off, you will start feeling much better emotionally.


To ensure normal recovery, patients are prescribed painkillers and antibiotics. Depending on the patient and the type of procedure, the dosage of the medicine can vary.

However, the intake of pain medications has been linked with mood alterations and depression. You will feel better once you’ve stopped taking these medications. Your surgeon will let you know for how long you need to take them.


If you have multiple surgeries simultaneously or even spaced apart, you might feel that the person that you’re looking at in the mirror is not you anymore. You should give yourself some time to settle into your new look and get used to it. However, you might feel anguish and regret as a result of this feeling of alienation from your original self.

Bad Etiquette 

One cause of depression after surgery may be the things that other people say to you. There’s a certain plastic surgery etiquette. If you’ve told people that you’re undergoing surgery and they come to ask about your recovery and final results, it’s not that problematic.

But comments like, “Why did you do it? You looked great before,” can really make you feel bad about the surgery. This can be accompanied by a feeling of helplessness, where you feel like you cannot do anything to get out of this situation. This can cause further downward spiralling.

This is why many people prefer to have surgeries during the holidays so that other people won’t notice the glaring surgical scar or any other post-op complication. It is because sometimes people will approach you just to tell you that you should not have gotten the surgery and you made a mistake.

Pain & Discomfort

Pain and discomfort can make you feel restless and anxious. You can also have trouble sleeping. Unfortunately, after many surgeries, you are specifically advised against taking any sleeping pills because you may be required to sleep in a certain way for a while.

All these things can make you feel sad. Chronic pain can lead to depression, but since you’ll only experience temporary pain (which should be managed by prescribed painkillers), you should start to feel better a few days after the surgery. But keep in mind that this can also impact your overall emotional state and behaviour.

How Else Can Surgery Effect Your Emotions? 

Soon after the surgery, it is important that you rest because your body needs to heal. The surgery and anaesthesia will leave you drained, but if you have depression after surgery, that will do more of the same. You may also end up experiencing the following:

  • Anger
  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Crying spells
  • Guilty
  • Fogginess
  • Grogginess
  • Weakness

For at least 1-3 weeks after the surgery, you might feel a bit moody and worried. Isolation from the outside world can make things worse for you. Even for a few months after the surgery, you might feel that you didn’t do the right thing by deciding to get surgery.

However, as you heal with time and swelling, bruising, and redness subside while the scarring also fades, you’ll start to feel better. Many plastic surgeries have a high satisfaction rate for a reason.

How To Deal With Depression After Surgery?  

Initially, you might feel drained and exhausted both mentally and physically. However, it’s a good idea to try out things that can help you deal with depression after surgery.

Get Help 

If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of depression after surgery, it’s important that you make sure to get help from a medical professional. Before the surgery, your doctor should discuss this potential complication with you, so you can be better prepared for it. However, if you’re experiencing depression, you should get in touch with your surgeon. They might prescribe you some medications that don’t interfere with the recovery or refer you to another doctor.

Share Your Experience 

Staying silent might make you feel worse. Your thoughts might be muddled, and talking about your emotions with someone you trust can be quite helpful. You can even try reading about the experiences of other people who’ve been in the same situation as yours. This can also make you feel better, knowing that you’ll get out of this.


According to Harvard Health, exercise may be just as effective as antidepressants in some cases. It can develop new nerve connections in the brain, which can elevate your mood. Additionally, exercising can stimulate the release of “feel-good” endorphins. You might also be able to sleep better as a result of it.

Depression can make it difficult for you to get out of bed. However, you can start with small exercises for a few minutes a day. Soon after plastic surgery (depending on what type of surgery you’ve had), you may be asked to restrict strenuous physical activity for a few weeks. But, in many cases, doctors recommend taking short walks that are not too taxing on the body. You can take these walks outside (away from the sun) as a change of scenery can also help.

Eat Healthy Foods 

Harvard Health reports that those who eat a healthy diet are at a significantly lower risk of experiencing depression. So, even before getting the surgery, you need to make sure that you’re healthy and fulfilling your daily nutrient requirement.

After the surgery, you need to make sure that you’re eating healthy because your body needs the energy to heal. Trying to maintain your weight after surgery can help you feel good about yourself.

Talk To Your Loved Ones 

While depression can make you feel guilty and worthless, one way to cope with this is to talk to your friends and family members. That’ll make you feel less alone. You could also consider getting in touch with someone who you know had plastic surgery.


Meditation has a positive effect on your mental health. Doing sports might not be possible for you, especially in the initial stage of your recovery, but you may try meditating with soft background music. This might help you with your negative emotions.

Be Patient  

While it may be hard for a while, it is important that you stay patient to cope with depression after surgery. The recovery from some procedures can be slightly more difficult, especially if you’re not in good health. However, keep in mind that you should get better after some.


Many people experience depression after surgery, no matter how small or big the surgery is. There are different reasons why that can happen. It’s important that you have realistic expectations before the surgery. Many people think that they’d be happy after plastic surgery, but they end up experiencing the opposite of it. If you’re experiencing depression after surgery, make sure to get professional help.

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