FAQ31: Can depression follow a laryngectomy?
by David Blevins
Question: My father just underwent a laryngectomy ... and he appears depressed. Can this be an issue?
Answer: It is not universal, but depression is not at all unusual for someone undergoing a laryngectomy.
As we have said many times here, hypothyroidism needs to be ruled out. If your father has not had his thyroid function tested it should be done. Your description of the gradual onset of symptoms in your father fits the experience of many of us. It is very common for MDs (including ENTs) to not know that laryngectomees are prone to hypothyroidism, and the test for it is not routinely done with the standard blood tests as part of routine exams. Hypothyroidism has so many symptoms that it is difficult to diagnose. See this issue for an article on the subject:
If hypothyroidism is ruled out (and perhaps even if it is not) he sounds like a candidate for treatment for his depression. There are medications which help, and talking therapies (individual or group) are also helpful. Attending a lary support group is beneficial since he is likely to be in the company of people who have experienced all he has and is going through, but who have emerged from the other side of it as survivors and, perhaps, even stronger.
Again, depression is not inevitable for laryngectomees, but is not uncommon. Here are some of the stressors associated with it:
The research says that much depression goes undiagnosed, particularly in older people. The good news is that it is treatable and curable.
See the articles "Laryngectomees and Depression" and "Stages or Phases of Grief?" in the May 2002 issue of the "IAL News" here:
Good luck. I hope your father gets the help he needs.