Ostomy Surgery and Depression


Ostomy Surgery and Depression

Edited by Bobbie Brewer, UOAA UPDATE 11/12

Sleeplessness, loss of appetite, feelings of guilt or worthlessness, or irritability are some of the symptoms of depression. It can be triggered by the inability to participate in normal daily pleasurable activities, by a sense of helplessness and lack of control over your body. Medications, stress, malnutrition, anesthesia, or metabolic imbalance can also cause depression.

Patients who base their self-esteem on their physical appearance, they’re “always in control”, take charge character, or their good Samaritan (always the helper or solver) behavior, have a harder time dealing with their disease, their ostomy, their lack of control over their bodies, and their need to depend on others for help, even if only temporarily.

Constantly tired from efforts to cope with daily household or work routines, while learning to adapt to physical requirements this unpredictable new addition to your body, leaves little energy for enjoyment of leisure activities or romantic involvement. It takes us some time to return to our normal lifestyle. So relax—do what you are capable of doing at this time, and do not try to rush things. You have had enough pain and deserve a vacation.

Give yourself a year for a good recovery and if it should happen to take a lot less time, consider yourself a very lucky person. In the meantime, do what you have to do in whatever way you are capable of doing it, but do not give more than a passing thought to the things you cannot do right now. You might have to take some shortcuts, do some improvising, or indulge in some healthy neglect. Do not be bashful about asking for and accepting help. You would do the same for someone else if they needed help.

Some patients conceal their ostomy from their spouse, families or lovers because they fear rejection, feel shame or embarrassment, are modest or have noticed evidence of disgust. This results in feelings of isolation, depression and chronic anxiety. Most ostomates need a few months before they feel secure about being accepted. Join the crowd!! You are not alone! We all go through this

Signs of Depression:

  • Physical – aches or pains, or other physical complaints that seem to have no physical basis. Marked change in appetite; change in sleep patterns, and fatigue.
  • Emotional – pervasive sadness; anxiety; apathy; crying for no reason and indifference.
  • Changes in Behavior – neglect of personal appearance; withdrawal from others; increased use of alcohol/drugs; increased irritability and restlessness.
  • Changes in Thoughts – feelings of hopelessness/worthlessness; inappropriate or excess guilt; forgetfulness and inability to make decisions to take action.

(Note: There are some cases of depression which can benefit most from professional help. Do not hesitate to ask your doctor.)

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