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Surgery Anxiety: How Does Anxiety Before Surgery Affect a Person & Ways To Find Relief

What is Surgery Anxiety?

An uncomfortable feeling experienced by people around surgery is known as surgery anxiety. The anxiety can be relieved by getting accurate information about the procedure, trying relaxation techniques, and with the help of certain medications.

Surgery Anxiety

According to the World Health Organization, 266-360 million people undergo surgery every year(1). It is observed that around 75% of them are known to be anxious during surgery.

The severity of anxiety depends on age, past experiences with surgery, and the health condition of a person. It may look and feel different for different people, which may include:

The surgery anxiety may begin when planning the procedure and might peak on the day of surgery.

Causes of Surgery Anxiety

The causes of pre-operative anxiety include:

  • Long-term complications
  • Recovery lasting a long time
  • Risks associated with anesthesia
  • Possibility of life ending

How Does Anxiety Before Surgery Affect a Person?

Pre-operative anxiety may lead to several physical changes in the body including:

  • Increase in the release of hormones
  • Tachycardia
  • Reduced immune response
  • Electrolyte fluid imbalance
  • Increased wound healing
  • Hypertension
  • Reduced immune response
  • An increase in body temperature

Pre-operative anxiety may also lead to an increase in the dosage of sedatives and anesthetics on the day of surgery. This may increase the risk of adverse events and affect postoperative recovery.

How is Pre-Surgery Anxiety Different from Post-Surgery Anxiety?

Both pre-surgery and post-surgery anxiety are linked with complications. Research shows that pre-operative anxiety may increase the level of postoperative pain(2). This means more the level of pre-operative anxiety more is the pain and discomfort experienced during recovery.

Pre-operative anxiety may also lead to delays in wound healing and other complications including nausea, vomiting, and cardiovascular and respiratory problems.

Post-surgery anxiety on the other hand may lead to mental health issues including:

  • Difficulty in making decisions
  • Loss of energy
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Depression or low mood
  • Gradually losing interest in activities and work that were previously enjoyed

Both pre and post-operative anxiety may also lead to an increase in hospital stay, reduced satisfaction, and increased recovery time, and may affect a person’s quality of life.

Signs of Surgery Anxiety

Severe anxiety may lead to the following symptoms:

  • Palpitation or pounding heart
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Sleep problems
  • Shortness of breath
  • Excessive worrying about surgery

How to Relieve Anxiety Before Surgery?

Understanding anxiety is the first step towards reducing it.

Anxiety occurs to help protect the body from danger and to prepare it to escape from it. Many people find ways to manage anxiety over time. There are several ways to manage anxiety before surgery.

Methods to Ease Anxiety

Several methods that may help ease anxiety before surgery include(3):

  • Gathering information about the surgery beforehand, which might include possible complications and expected outcomes.
  • Speaking about anxiety with healthcare professionals, friends, and family. Friends and family can provide the person with strength and support.
  • Relaxation techniques including yoga, meditation, and exercises.
  • Trying music therapy. Listening to music before surgery may help in relieving anxiety.
  • Undergoing cognitive behavior therapy before surgery.
  • Using essential oils from various plants for their calming benefit.


Medications may be prescribed by doctors to promote relaxation before surgery.

Doctor’s Help

Doctors may help ease anxiety by proving accurate information regarding surgical procedures. This may help a person understand what might happen during the surgery and what to expect, post the procedure.

He can recommend counselors, volunteers, or social workers that can provide help and support to reduce anxiety.

People may have anxiety about the pending surgery and there may be several factors affecting it. There are various ways anxiety can be reduced and surgery can proceed and be successful with a calm and less anxious mind.

Also Read:

Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 12, 2023

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