Depression After Amputation

The loss of a limb may trigger a psychological reaction akin to grief, which may lead to depression. This is not uncommon, and can luckily be overcome with the right support from both prosthetists and the patient’s friends and family.

Psychological Effects of Amputation

Some of the signs of depression can include:

  • Changes in eating patterns; either overeating, or not eating at all
  • Lack of interest
  • Irritability / being overly emotional
  • Changes in sleeping patterns
  • Lack of libido
  • Feelings of isolation – withdrawing from social situations
  • Increased apathy towards life and situations

Psychological Adaptation to Amputation

There are generally four stages of adaptation to amputation.

Preoperative Stage

As the name implies, this is the stage that occurs before the operation takes place. Should the patient have the opportunity to prepare mentally for the surgery, it is often the case that there is a sense of anticipation for the relief of pain, and a sense of acceptance.

However, there may be another side to it whereby a patient feels anxious and concerned about:

  • Change in appearance
  • How they will be viewed by society thereafter
  • Loss of sexual drive / intimacy by significant other

Immediate Postoperative Stage

In this stage, patients commonly fear:

  • Complications and pain
  • Adapting to lifestyle changes
  • Fear of not being accepted

In-Hospital Rehabilitation

This phase is the most critical one, with the greatest impact on all involved in the amputation; from the patient, their loved ones, and the hospital staff. This stage is where denial sets in and it can often be frustrating for everyone; the patient may feel a need to over exert themselves, or over compensate in other ways. There may be a slight adrenaline-like response, but this can often be followed by a serotonin crash, leaving the patient feeling sad and hopeless.

At-Home Rehabilitation

Once the patient is at home, the last stage may bring about a second phase of realisation. It is often in the isolated moments where the patient will feel additional depression and grief. This may lead to additional irritability, irrational emotional outbursts and more.  

Overcoming Depression After Amputation

It’s important to remember that humans can adjust to any situation. There are many people who have overcome amputation, and there are many organisations that can provide the correct support.

If there are any more questions, please contact us for support and information.