What You Need to Know About Postoperative Depression and Pain Management

postoperative depression

Managing postoperative pain in addiction recovery can be quite challenging. You were able to successfully graduate from addiction treatment and your recovery is in forward motion. Of course, recovery from addiction means you are no longer using drugs or alcohol. However, what happens when there are extenuating circumstances in your life? Should you require a major surgery, how do you deal with postoperative pain, discomfort, and depression?

A major postoperative complication is depression – a serious condition that needs attention so that you can find the treatments that can help you cope. When you’re depressed during the postoperative phase, your body may have trouble healing. Postoperative depression has been connected to not only poor recovery, but death as well. Here are some thoughts of what to be aware of prior to surgery, help curb postoperative depression, and what to be aware of at this stage in your recovery.

Symptoms of Postoperative Depression

Many people who experience postoperative depression don’t expect it to happen. Doctors don’t always warn people about it beforehand. Postoperative depression symptoms are sometimes overlooked because of their similarities to the aftereffects of surgery. A persistent low mood is one of the many symptoms of depression. Other symptoms include:

  • Fatigue,
  • Irritability and restlessness,
  • Loss of interest in activities,
  • Eating more or less than usual,
  • Sleeping more or less than usual,
  • Difficulty making decisions,
  • Problems with memory,
  • Slow movements and speech,
  • Feeling anxious, guilty, or stressed,
  • Feeling despair or hopelessness, and
  • Thoughts of harming oneself or others.

Medications and the aftereffects of surgery can lead to a loss of appetite and excessive sleeping. However, if you have emotional symptoms, such as hopelessness, agitation, or loss of interest in activities alongside fatigue and a loss of appetite, these may be signs of postoperative depression.

When depression appears immediately after surgery, this could be an effect of medication. When symptoms continue for two weeks or longer, this may be a sign of depression.

Postoperative Risk Factors for Depression

Depression after surgery can affect both your mental and physical health. Statistically, there are some surgeries more closely linked to postoperative depression than others. Doctors have noticed that people who have the following procedures most often have depression afterward:

  • Heart surgery, especially coronary artery bypass graft
  • Plastic surgery
  • Gastric bypass surgery
  • Brain surgery
  • Hip replacement surgery
  • Radical prostatectomy
  • Mastectomy
  • Hysterectomy
  • Cancer resection
  • Vision correction surgery

This leads to the following questions – what can you do to prevent postoperative depression and what should you do to deal with depression when it does occur? Below are some pre-surgical tools to help reduce postoperative depression.

Before Surgery

When you’re about to have your surgery, you want to be sure to get in touch with your physician(s) at least a day or two ahead of time. Even when it’s redundant, go over with your primary doctor and surgeon about your experience with addiction as well as your risk of depression. This is especially important for those that are high-risk. This allows your doctor to tailor care to your needs, avoiding narcotic pain medications and ensuring that you are equipped for surgical recovery.

You also want to prepare your mind and body for the surgery. Eat healthy foods, get enough sleep, and continue to avoid substance use. If you are especially anxious or depressed before surgery, you’re more likely to deal with post-surgical depression. Address these issues with a counselor before your surgery date.

Receiving social support is also important – talk with family members or friends about what’s going on in your head and heart prior to your surgery. Make sure to go over with them anything that you’ll need after the procedure. Don’t hesitate to ask for their help – whether it be physical, practical, social, and/or emotional support. After all, that’s what friends are for!

Coping with Postoperative Depression

Knowing what to do to manage postoperative depression ahead of time is also an important step. Here are some strategies that you should have in mind to take should you need them after your procedure.

Contact Your Doctor

Make an appointment to see your doctor if you think you may have postoperative depression.

It is important to have open lines of communication with your doctor about your recovery and discuss your options in order to treat your depression without turning to substance use.

Step Outside

Going outside to get a breath of fresh air and a change in scenery may help to relieve symptoms of depression. Should surgery or a health condition affect your mobility, a friend, family member, or social care worker may be able to help you have a change of scene. Double-check with your doctor beforehand that there’s no risk of infection where you’re headed as well.

Stay Positive

Setting goals can help you stay positive. Keeping them realistic, set milestone goals for yourself, and have mini-celebrations after you achieve each one along the road of your recovery. This helps your overall focus stay on long-term outcomes, while avoiding the frustration of not being where you want to be in an unlikely time frame.


When you’ve had knee or hip replacement surgery, physical therapy and exercise will be part of your treatment plan. You should resume regular physical activity as soon as your doctor recommends. Your physical therapist will assign you exercises that specifically help with your recovery. When having any other type of surgery, reach out to your doctor or physical therapist about the what, when, and how for exercising.

Eat Well

Managing a postoperative healthy diet and maintaining your weight will go a long way during your recovery. They also provide the nutrients your body needs to heal. Consume plenty of fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, whole grains, healthy oils, and water. Be sure to avoid processed foods, high fat foods, and high sugar foods.

Prepare Accordingly

Make the time to get your home set up for your recovery prior to your operation. Taking these steps can reduce stress and anxiety. Having your home recovery ready may also help reduce the risk of further problems and complications, such as falling and being unable to find important documents.

Pine Grove is Here for You

Depression can be a side effect of surgery. For anyone undergoing surgery, it can be beneficial for them and their families to know when to seek medical help so that they can get early treatment.

At Pine Grove, we have created a treatment model that heals the whole person – not just parts of them. Our evidence-based programming can be tailored to people of all ages, from childhood to older adulthood. We offer both residential and outpatient treatment options depending on each person’s needs. Upon consultation, our staff will create a plan of care that is perfect for you. Contact us to begin healing from addiction and depression today.

lorem ipsum dolor

Learn More About Pine Grove

pine tree Pine Grove Behavioral Health logo

Get In Touch

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.