Depression After Tonsillectomy

One challenge that many tonsillectomy patients don’t anticipate is depression after surgery. Even people with the sunniest of dispositions may find themselves in a dark place after enduring the hardships of surgery and its recovery. **Before discussing the topic of depression after surgery any further, let me say that if you are under a doctor’s care for depression before surgery, be sure to work with them to plan treatment after surgery. 

Tonsillectomy Recovery- Day 17: Why don’t I feel better?

Tonsillectomy surgery, like almost any other surgery, requires more of your body than normal. The healing process takes energy. After tonsillectomy, eating and sleeping become difficult. This makes the healing process more of a strain. I have tips for both eating and sleeping on other pages. For now I’d like to address the almost inevitable event of depression after surgery.

Feeling depressed after tonsillectomy
Depression After Tonsillectomy

Two weeks of battling pain, not getting enough sleep, taking narcotic pain medicine, and being removed from your normal social interaction can have a profound effect on your mental state. Being prepared for depression after surgery can help you feel better.

Doing your best to stay nourished, get sleep, and stay ahead of pain will all help. I further recommend planning some simple daily activities like a short walk outside, a relaxing bath, a daily television show. These simple activities can get your mind off the discomfort, give you something to look forward to, and give normalcy to an otherwise abnormal time.

Another trick to beating depression after surgery is to record your thoughts and feelings in a journal. Oddly, this seems to release the struggles a bit. I also suggest participating in the online forums and offering others support. As I’ve often said, when you shine a light for others, you also light your own path.

Finally, let people in. Family, friends, health professionals, even co workers have more compassion than you may realize. Let people help. Ask for help in advance- before you have surgery. I personally would be delighted if a friend asked me to run out for Popsicle’s or chewing gum because they’d run out during their tonsillectomy recovery. Help others to help you. You’ll both benefit.

Finally, try to remember that this is temporary. How you are feeling in the midst of your recovery is not how you’ll always feel. Try to imagine the better life you’ll have without the problems the surgery will have corrected. Again, you can read of success stories in my book and on the forum.

Take care,


121 thoughts on “Depressed After Tonsillectomy? You are not alone

  1. Hi, I’m 28 and I’m on my 15th day after the surgery. I’ve been doing pretty well so far with the recovery. Yes, the recovery process was very painful the first week. I had to rush to ER on day three because I had excruciating pain since I missed my every 4 hour morphine dose that my doctor prescribed me. I wasn’t even able to drink water and was dehydration and had swollen tongue. They gave me IV and pain killers in the ER and I was sent back home after I started feeling better. The remaining days were not so bad. I was able to eat soft food like soup, rice puddings, protien shakes, noodles, ice creams etc. But yea, I lost around 10lbs in almost two weeks. I was able to have a proper dinner on day 12 when I had speghatti and meatballs. Day 13 was when the anexity and depression kicked in. I was in ER again on day 13th after having an anexity/panic attack. I felt so uneasy and was spiralling down on negative thoughts and felt like I was having a heart attack. After spending 6 hours in ER and going through a bunch of test the doctor did to make sure I’m not having a stroke or a heart attack I was sent back home. I’ve been struggling with depression and anxiety ever since. This is the worst post surgery phase as compared to pain management. I’ve been trying to find ways to push negative thoughts out of my mind. I’ve been trying to eat all healthy organic food. Night time is the worst, when the anxiety really takes over. Day 14 I was having the same anxiety attack but I tried to control it. I got out of my bed and did some breathing exercise and yoga. It helped a bit I would say. I fall asleep after but I had crazy elobrate dreams all night and I woke up feeling a little exhausted. Today is day 15th and I did a 15 minute low intensity workout to combat anxiety. But working out is not easy either, I’ve realized I’ve become extremely weak physically. Lost all the core strength. But I’ve been feeling a bit better after the workout. Unfortunately the weather is not helping either, the forecast for whole next week is with a low of -22°C in Toronto. So I’m locked up in my apartment. This is easily the worst Christmas/new year ever but I’ve been doing my best to cope up with phycial and mental stress. I think the fact that I was on really strong painkillers, morphine in my case, have had his drawbacks. The withdrawal symptoms are adding up the anxiety and depression. Let’s see how the remaining days go by. I’m a little worried about the fact that I’ve to join back to work in two days. I hope I’ll have some strength by then. Goodluck to everyone going through the recovery process. Eating healthy will help with the physical recovery and doing light workout and yoga involving breathing exercises will help with anxiety and depression. And writing down your feelings, like how I did in this posts, and reading about the experiences did help me overcome some anxiety. So thank you everyone! Keep up the good work and happy new year (2018) 😊

    1. I am 36 year old female. Had tonsillectomy two days after Thanksgiving this year (2017). It was AWFUL from the moment I woke from surgery. I had renal (kidney) failure, so pain killers were out of the question and the pain was wretched! I was 11 days into recovery when I was rushed to ER after I began to hemorrhage (tonsil area) where they took me back into surgery to cauterize the tonsil area. I woke from that surgery, profusely vomiting old blood. I am five weeks post surgery and my throat remains sore and I have some bumps growing? I too, fell into a very real depression and still fighting it. I normally have a sunny disposition. Both surgeries have taken a toll on me physically and mentally. I still have no energy and want to do nothing but sleep. Had my tonsils not posed a threat on my kidneys (because my tonsils were infected) I’d have kept my tonsils. It’s absolute hell on an adult to have a tonsillectomy.

  2. Hey guys I had my surgery 12 days ago and i don’t have an appetite it’s hard to swallow my food not because of pain just can’t find myself swallowing it. I’m nauseated all the time and i haven’t really ate in a couple days I’m 20 by the way . This is hell.

  3. Thank you. This whole forum has really been helping me. I don’t know why but i have been obsessed with reading about this surgery. It’s my way of coping. I am on day 7 of my recovery. I started off the morning crying (i’m so tired i haven’t slept in days due to the fear of waking up with a dried out soar throat) i know it’s bad to not be sleeping, but my body physically will not let me. Everytime my head hits a pillow, it’s headaches, blurry vision, & discomfort. Luckily throughout the day my soar throat seemed to disappear! i had been nearly staving myself due to the discomfort in my throat so i was stoked i could finally eat some food. I ate some mcdonalds fried & nuggets (which is rare for me considering i don’t even like mcdonalds) and it tasted so good! I was even more stoked be actually be tired after i ate this delicious meal, i woke up…completely devastated. This is the worst pain i have been in yet. Up until this point i used to only feel pain in my throats when i swallowed or for a few minutes following that, but now i feel pain just by exsisting. I’m completely heartbroken. i thought i was getting better, but i only seem to be going backwards. I am sorry for the rant i just thought it would help me to get it out. I keep clinging to the words of people who are done and over with this, “it will pass,” “you will feel better”. Thank you if you read this far & healing to everyone. ❤️

    1. I’ve been reading this forum daily since having my tonsils removed 12 days ago and it’s been a great source of support (despite some of the horror stories). I’d been warned that a tonsillectomy at my age (37) was going to be unpleasant so I was under no illusions about that. However, for the first 7 days after the surgery I was doing fine: in pain, yes, but nothing I hadn’t expected and was easily managed with my painkillers. The worst thing during those days was waking up with that horrendous dried out throat that takes a good hour to settle down (I found that chewing gum for a while before trying to drink some water helped to moisten the area first- just going straight for the water is absolute torture). I had also been eating fairly well: porridge, toast, soup albeit in very small quantities. By day 7 I started to feel like I was getting back to normal and started to reduce my painkillers and really thought I was on the upturn. Unfortunately, from day 8 I’ve hit a brick wall. The throat is healing and the general pain is definitely getting better, but now that the scabs have started to fall off it’s left my throat really red and raw. I now can’t eat a single thing as the stinging pain when any food touches the back of my throat is so severe that it genuinely makes me cry. I know this is temporary and will be worth it in the end, but I’m now onto my fourth day of only being able to swallow water and I just feel so hungry and miserable. I’d been told by my surgeon that most people are fine in around 10-14 days and I’m just so despondent because I feel like I should be feeling better than I currently do. I had anticipated the pain, but I just didn’t expect to feel so hungry and depressed especially at this stage in my recovery. For anyone preparing for a tonsillectomy: there are some horror stories out there, some of them almost put me off having the surgery, but the surgery itself is fine and the post-op recovery is bearable as long as you take your pain meds. Just be prepared for it to be a slow process (you really don’t bounce back in a few days) which might leave you hungry and feeling pretty low. The only consolation is that it is temporary and that’s the only thing keeping me going right now! Good luck everyone!

      1. Hang in there Kaz. Thanks for sharing!

      2. Thank you Kaz!!! I am having my surgery done this Wednesday, 11/15 and I am absolutely dreading it, I think more with the possibility of post-op bleeding and not know what is going to happen. Thank you for sharing and I will be back on here after my surgery. I hope you have recovered well enough. Thanks again.

      3. Oh and I am also 37 🙂 so I can relate to the age thing.

        1. Hey, hopefully you’ve been through your surgery and are starting to feel a bit better by now. I’m pleased to report that from day 14 onwards I’ve been back to normal, so although you do go through a few bad days when you feel you aren’t getting better and might feel depressed and tearful that feeling really does pass. Five weeks after surgery the only problem I have is that my sense of taste is still a bit off, but I’m sure that will improve with time. Good luck with your recovery…it will get better soon!

  4. Hi I’m 17 years Old and it’s been 18 days since my tonsillectomy. I feel very low and keep crying all the time. I’ve returned back to college yesterday and the pressure is high as I have a lot of work to complete and little time. I feel completely drained and so down. Has anyone felt like this ? If so how long will it take to start feeling myself again

    1. Hi Paige. I felt much the same as you. Just know you are not alone and make sure you are taking care of yourself first. You will get through.

    2. Hi Paige. What you’re experiencing is common, but WILL go away soon enough. Make sure you are getting your rest. Drink some protein shakes for energy. Recovering from a tonsillectomy is a mind game where you need to dig deep into your inner strength and constantly remind yourself that the pain, depression, weakness, etc… will pass as time heals you. For me it wasn’t one day at a time, it was surviving ONE HOUR at a time through parts of my recovery. When the low energy and depression was present I reminded myself that it was due to the surgery and that it would pass. Be good to yourself, and hang in there! My daughter is 18 and has a very bad case of tonsillitis right now that is not responding to treatment. Her throat is nearly closed with swollen tonsils. She wants a tonsillectomy and I told her she doesn’t know what she’s asking for! I hope she gets better soon and can avoid the surgery! :o) Best to you!

  5. Man this is so painful for a 56 year old, the surgery.

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