Understanding the emotional side of organ transplant

The time after your transplant may be challenging. It may be a good idea to call your transplant team if your mood changes make it difficult for you to get through your day. Your transplant team may refer you to a counselor or a support group where you can talk with patients who have had similar feelings.

Feeling down

Almost everyone feels sad sometimes, but if you are feeling down for a long time, it may be a sign of depression. Depression is a medical illness that can be treated. If it is left untreated, it can last for months.

It is important to talk to your transplant team if you think you are feeling depressed. Here are some ways to help you tell the difference between “the blues” and depression.

Some signs of depression may include:

  • Lack of energy that doesn’t go away
  • Lasting sadness
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Sense of hopelessness that doesn’t go away or keeps coming back
  • Negative view of the world and others
  • Overeating or loss of appetite, with weight gain or loss
  • Feelings of unworthiness or guilt
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Waking up early
  • Inability to enjoy pleasurable activities

Some signs of the blues may include:

  • Feeling down for a few days but still able to function normally in daily activities
  • Occasional lack of energy or a mild change in sleeping patterns
  • Ability to enjoy some activities
  • No weight loss or gain
  • A feeling of hopelessness that passes quickly

Signs of depression and the blues according to Philip Hagen, MD, editor. Mayo Clinic Embody Health Guide to Self-Care, 5th edition (Mayo Clinic, 2010).

Fighting the blues

The following tips from the Mayo Clinic may help you feel better:

  • Sharing your feelings with friends, family members, or counselors. They can provide support, advice, and their own insights
  • Expressing yourself visually or in words. Creativity can help us express and release our feelings
  • Spending time with other people can help bring new friends into our lives and help us see past problems
  • Doing familiar activities, especially those we enjoy, can help us feel better
  • Exercising regularly helps the body deal with stress
  • Getting enough sleep gives the body and mind a chance to rest
  • Eating balanced meals gives your body the nutrients it needs to work
  • Setting goals keeps you from feeling like there’s too much to do that you can’t handle. Split large goals into smaller ones to make them easier to achieve and to measure progress
  • Avoiding alcohol keeps us in control of our minds and bodies, so we don’t make a problem worse
  • Helping those less fortunate adds to our sense of purpose and self-worth
  • Asking for specific kinds of help from friends and family members. They may know you’re feeling sad but might not know how to help

If feelings of unhappiness are severe or don’t go away, you may be depressed. If this is the case, let your transplant team know right away.

Tips for fighting the blues according to Philip Hagen, MD, editor. Mayo Clinic Embody Health Guide to Self-Care, 5th edition (Mayo Clinic, 2010).