Clinicians can help patients work through emotional stress caused by surgery and wound treatment.

Whether you have a diabetic foot ulcer or a surgical wound, your body undergoes additional stress as it heals and defends against infection. Many people may not be aware of it, but experiencing and healing from a wound can also have a big effect on one’s mental and emotional health. Consider these ways that a wound and the healing process can serve as an emotional stressor:

Effects of a traumatic experience

If someone obtained a wound due to an accident, there can be residual emotional distress afterward. Known as post-traumatic stress disorder, this can cause social, psychological and physical complications, particularly if the experience was severely distressful. For instance, a study by the Neuroscience Research Center found that 22 percent of flame burn victims tested positive for PTSD within a few weeks of the incident, and that figure increased significantly after three months.

Fear of treatment

People can experience heightened levels of anxiety when it comes to visiting a clinician for care. Patients with diabetic foot ulcers, for example, might be afraid that they will be told they need amputation to stop the spread of infection and necrosis. This becomes especially dangerous when people put off seeing a clinician out of fear. Surgery is also a big trigger of anxiety. According to the National Institutes of Health, stress can lead to symptoms that exacerbate pain, including sleep issues, shortness of breath, muscle soreness and nausea.

Post-surgery depression

Many people experience bouts of depression after undergoing a surgical procedure. As Harvard Magazine notes, the cause is believed to be a major shift in the way people view their bodies – as healthy and in tact.

“Major surgery can shatter that image, and with it the concept of self-sustaining health,” Harvard Magazine explains. “The feelings of mortality, of loss, and of vulnerability can be profound, and recognizing depression in surgery’s aftermath becomes very important.”

Post-surgical pain, as well as a feeling of isolation if one requires an extended hospital stay, can worsen depressive symptoms. However, depression tends to manifest itself well after the surgery is over, the patient has returned home and his or her thoughts become increasingly consumed by mortality.

Getting help

Many hospitals have counseling services to help you work through fears of undergoing an operation, post-traumatic stress related to a wound and depression after surgery. Additionally, clinicians at practices, which tend to have smaller patient pools, may be able to give you one-on-one guidance, refer you to a counselor to help you work through any issues, and even prescribe medications to reduce anxiety.

Easing emotional stress is important not only for your mental health, but also to help your body properly heal. The relationships between wounds and stress go both ways: A wound can cause stress, which can in turn negatively affect wound healing. If severe, psychological stressors can lead to a weakening of the immune system that increases the chance of infection and ultimately slow the stages of recovery.