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How common is depression after surgery?

Most people who have surgery will not become clinically depressed. About one-third of patients do report some minor symptoms of depression, which we call “post-op blues” (like “baby blues” after giving birth). Post-op blues often happen in the first few weeks or months after surgery when you are still recovering and adjusting to a new way of life. You may ask yourself:

  • Why did I do this?
  • What was I thinking?

This is not depression, and it’s normal to feel this way. It usually goes away within a couple of months.

Depression can range from very mild to severe. It’s important to be able to recognize symptoms and ask for help if needed, both before and after surgery.

If post-op blues don’t go away or get worse, you may be having symptoms of underlying depression. If you have the following symptoms, it’s important to know that you can get support. Depression is very treatable.

Symptoms of depression:

  • Sadness
  • Loss of interest
  • Changes in sleep
  • Changes in appetite
  • Social isolation
  • Helplessness
  • Hopelessness
  • Worthlessness
  • Irritability
  • Low motivation
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Increased anger and/or frustration

If you are currently on depression medications, it’s also important to let your doctor know. Your doctor may need to adjust your medications after surgery depending on the dosage.

There are many resources at Kaiser Permanente and elsewhere that can support you and help you get back on track. You are not alone.

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