Depression: The Dirty Word After Plastic Surgery

The first week following a plastic surgery procedure can be a difficult one for some people.  I try to help my patients not only through the physical elements of the experience but also the mental and emotional components as well.  When I was editor in chief of a consumer guide to facial plastic surgery, known as The Face Book, about 2 years ago I remember very clearly editing a section on postoperative depression.  Interestingly, I had a patient that very next week come to my office telling me that she was depressed right after a procedure I had just performed and that she wished that I had prepared her better for that experience.  Of course, I apologized for my lack of awareness of this possibility.  Now, I am much more attuned to a patient’s mental state and temperament after any procedure large or small.

Depression after a plastic surgery procedure can occur

Several things that make a patient particularly sensitive would be the emotional support that is given or sometimes inadvertently taken away by his or her family members and friends.  I hear things like, “Mom, why did you have this procedure performed?  I liked the way you looked before.”  Even though this may sound relatively benign and innocuous it can be emotionally devastating.  I ask all family members to be as supportive as possible during this potentially trying period.  You should state to your family that necessity too to make sure that they comply consciously to that request.  I also ask my patient to be as relaxed and open minded about any comments that someone else makes in the first few weeks following a procedure when any residual abnormality may still be present.  I think this one thing alone really helps my patients through a difficult time.

In addition, I have mentioned in a related blog article about converting an emotionally negative time into one that is both fruitful and fun.  I call this “personal time”.  Personal time means for you to take that week or two that you would otherwise be stressed with family or work duties and make it time to mentally and emotionally recharge yourself.  Learn a language, read some books, watch movies or figure out what you want to do or where you want to be in the next 5 years.  Taking something negative and making it positive can be a wonderful thing.

Sometimes just talking about it, especially for women, is an important part of a cathartic release and can be integral to any part of the recovery process.  Just the simple fact that you acknowledge that you may be a little down is also an uplifting thing to do.  Denial is not a good thing, and pent up frustration over time leads to more problems down the road.

I also suggest patients to engage in prayer and/or meditation, depending on one’s spiritual inclination.  Just a process of deep and focused breathing can help one through the stress.  Being mindful about the stress and visualizing it go away can be incredibly effective.  I have done that for many patients who have such difficulty.  I have done it even for my mom unrelated to her surgery but just related to her stress in life and it works well.  I hope these small suggestions can help you through a period that may be negative and possibly make it more positive and enlightening.

Samuel M. Lam, MD, FACS is a board certified facial plastic surgeon in Dallas, Texas. To learn more about Dr Lam’s plastic surgery procedures please call (972) 312-8188 to schedule a consultation. If you would like to ask Dr Lam a question please visit our plastic surgery forum.