Why Do Some Doctors Say to Expect Feeling Depressed After a Full Face and Brow Lift?

I had a face lift in the past, and felt for the most part, just fine. I had absolutely no depression or mood changes. However, some docs are not telling me it is normal to expect a depression after such surgery. Could you please explain why this might be.and how long it can last.

Doctor Answers 19

Is it Normal to Feel Tired and Depressed after Face Lift Surgery?

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Feelings of fatigue and sadness are not uncommon after any plastic surgery procedure. The reasons for these feelings are varied. First of all, a great deal of planning, anticipation and anxiety (stress) proceeds cosmetic surgery, especially when the procedure could impact ones self image and confidence for a long period of time. After the procedure there is often an 'emotional release' or let down, causing many patients to feel feel tired and spent afterwards. Downtime following the procedure is accompanied a period of swelling and bruising that can also trigger a spell of the 'blues', the symptoms of which are not too dissimilar from any other form of depression. Finally, in some circumstances feelings of sadness and loneliness occur because the patient feels 'judged' and doesn't receive the anticipated emotional support of friends or family. Fortunately most feelings of sadness resolve quickly as the body heals and the patient is able to return to normal life and activities. To minimize the risk of post-operative depression, patients should possess a realistic understanding of the time required for the healing process. They should also avoid surgery during periods of extreme stress such as death, divorce, job loss or family crisis. 

Saint Louis Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 126 reviews

Depression after facelift

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There are some procedures that are very close to immediate gratification.  Breast lift comes to mind but facelift does not.

With facial surgery, you look worse before you look better and that alone can be depressing.  Also, most patients "hide out" after facial surgery and that isolation can also contribute to feeling down in the dumps.  And patients who are used to being active and getting some nice endorphins from a daily work out have to really take it easy for several weeks.  That decrease in endorphins can contribute to the post operative blues. 

So I tell my facial patients to expect being down in the dumps for a couple of weeks.  Things the patient can do that will help include:  avoiding mirrors, getting outdoors for some fresh air, avoiding negative "friends", avoid surfing the Internet for "plastic surgery disasters", eating really healthy food, and doing what you enjoy as long as it doesn't mean overdoing it.   

I see patients frequently during the first few weeks not only to make sure their recovery is on track but to give them a little pep talk.  And I really empathize.  I had a pretty rocky recovery from some facial surgery a few years ago and I know it can be challenging to keep a sunny outlook when you are looking a bit scary.   

Lisa Lynn Sowder, MD
Seattle Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 77 reviews

Depression After a Lower Facelift, or Any Cosmetic Work for that Matter.

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Thanks for such an open question!  I do in fact discuss this with my patients.  I can sum this up very quickly I believe--- downtime.  Our patients tend to be very dynamic and have very busy and fulfilling lives.  We temporarily request and require a significant lifestyle change for a very brief time after surgery.  In addition, our patients are sometimes having significant changes in sleep, activity level and diet due to the normal stressors of surgery.

I really stress balance in all aspects of our lives for our patients.  We work together to get back into the swing of things as quickly as possible.

I am so glad you didn't experience anything like this.  It is certainly very common.  Being prepared and knowing that it can be "normal" is 90% of the battle.

Thanks again for such a great question.

Dr. Todd Hobgood

Todd Christopher Hobgood, MD
Phoenix Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 57 reviews

Emotions after Facelift or Cosmetic Surgery

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The emotional response to surgery is something that every surgeon is familiar with. It's been my experience that having clear communication and well defined expectations can avoid unnecessary stress after surgery. That being said, it's not surprising for someone to have a feeling of depression after surgery such as a facelift and brow lift. Factors which may contribute to this include anesthesia, stress, level of change in facial appearance and a person's previous emotional condition. As far as the duration, it can last for weeks to months.

Here's something we've used in our practice in New York to help people understand what they're going through when this happens: First week- can be an emotional roller coaster (low energy, feel "zombie" like, wiped out, zonked); Second week you may be "nit picky" and "antsy" and "weird" (irritable, sad, anger, confused, questioning); third week may be "showing off", noticing reactions about how you look, and feeling better and more comfortable with results.

Amiya Prasad, MD
New York Oculoplastic Surgeon
4.4 out of 5 stars 80 reviews

The blues after a facelift

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Doctors who perform facelifts and understand the process and pay attention to their patients know that some can get the blues in the first month or two after a facelift.

its not a deep depression but a very mild sense of blues.

i talk with a lot of other facelift surgeons and we all have had a patient or two that reports this.  It is rare and it is not really related to the patients appreciation for the results.  It is also temporary.

i often tell my patients about this in advance and this seems to prevent the phenomenon.

Adam Bryce Weinfeld, MD
Austin Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 62 reviews

Depression after cosmetic surgery

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The phenomenon you describe does not affect everyone but I do think it is more prevalent in facial surgery. Despite looking at before and after pictures, some patients, in their mind's eye, think that the surgery will turn back the clock and make them look 30 again, rather than a more youthful 50. Or, they have surgery because or other social issues in their lives and when those don't resolve as hoped, they become depressed. All surgery and anesthesia is a trauma to the body and you have to be mindful of this, realize that it is part of the process, not expect an instantaneous result and be realistic about your goals and objectives.

Give Yourself an Adjustment Period After a Facelift

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It is not surprising that some patients feel depressed after major surgery such as a facelift. Some factors that may affect mood are:

  1. Lack of energy owing to the healing process

  2. Curtailment of normal activities during “downtime”

  3. Distress over how the face looks while it is still healing

  4. Reaction to anesthesia

  5. Changes in sleep and appetite in the postsurgical period.

A facelift represents a major life change and, like all life changes, it takes some adjustment. I always try to prepare my patients for the possibility of feeling not quite like themselves in the first two to three postoperative weeks. Knowing ahead of time that depression may become an issue allows them to prepare emotionally, just as they prepare themselves physically, for surgery. I'm glad that wasn't your experience.

Emotioinal response to facelift surgery

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Great question.  Although many patients seem to sail through the postoperative period without even a hint of depression, the downtime can be difficult for some to cope with emotionally.  Although everyone knows and expects that there will be swelling, bruising, and general downtime with cosmetic facial surgery, sometimes it doesn't completely sink in until the patient sees him or herself in the mirror.  There may be feelings of doubt or even guilt for spending money on themselves.  The good news is that with patience and encouragement from your surgeon and family members, these feelings generally resolve quickly, and patients quickly becomes excited and happy with how they look.  Here's some info on facelift recovery:

Scott K. Thompson, MD
Salt Lake City Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 113 reviews

Having the blues after facelift surgery

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It is very common after having a big life event to get a little down.  There is ramping up of excitement, then the event, and then the after effects.  With facial surgery there is also getting used to a face in the mirror that is different than what you are used to.  Also aesthetic surgery sometimes makes people look worse before they look better.  Please do talk to your plastic surgeon's office.  They see this stuff all the time.  They should be able to help.

Jeffrey J. Roth, MD, FACS
Las Vegas Plastic Surgeon
4.6 out of 5 stars 17 reviews

Depression after Facelift

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    Most patients have some pain or discomfort after facelift.  Though depression may not be observed in the majority of patients, there are some patients in which the postsurgical changes and the healing process produce changes in mood.  Kenneth Hughes, MD Los Angeles, CA

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.