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How Weight Loss Surgery Affects Mental Health

Weight Loss Surgery and Mental HealthAmongst patients who seek to undergo bariatric weight loss surgery, binge eating disorder and depression are common mental health conditions. But if these are conditions that are common before a patient has the weight loss surgery, does that mean that getting the surgery will help a patient overcome these mental ailments, or that the mental ailments will inhibit or promote weight loss? Keep reading to learn more.

The Stats About Weight Loss Surgery and Mental Health

Researchers analyzed obese patients and they found that roughly 23% of the patients who undergo weight loss surgery, also known as bariatric surgery, stated that they suffered from a mood disorder prior to the operation.

The most common disorder was depression, with 19% of patients reporting that ailment, but another 17% of the patients had also been diagnosed with eating disorders. And an additional 12% of the patients said that they suffered with anxiety.

What Doctors See in the Results

Is there a connection between mental health ailments and a person’s ability to lose weight with bariatric surgery?

Ultimately, the researchers found that there was conflicting evidence when it came to associating pre-operative mental health and post-operative weight loss. For example, neither binge eating nor depression consistently showed different outcomes in a patient’s weight. In other words, there was no real connection between a person’s mental state prior to the bariatric surgery and the results that he or she could enjoy after the surgery.

However, the weight loss surgery was associated consistently with post-op decreases in depression. Amongst seven studies, it was shown that there was a decrease in 8-74% of patients with depression. The severity of the symptoms of depression also decreased after the bariatric surgery, with six studies showing that there was a 40-70% decrease in symptom severity.

Bariatric Surgery and Mental Health

There have been previous studies and reviews that have already suggested that mental image, temperament, socioeconomic stability, support networks, cognitive function, and self-esteem all play significant roles in what the outcome of bariatric surgery will be.

The hope is that future studies will be able to show even clearer results. For now, it is clear that a patient’s mental health should be evaluated thoroughly prior to conducting bariatric surgery on them.

What Should You Do?

If you suffer from a mental health condition, such as depression, anxiety, or an eating disorder and you are overweight or obese, having bariatric surgery may help. However, it is important to also talk to your doctor about how you can work on overcoming your mental health conditions, as the surgery may not be a cure, but rather a means by which you can help quell feelings of insecurity that are the result of a poor body image.

Your doctor will want to discuss many factors linking your potential weight loss surgery with your mental health wellness.  You may find that there will be recommendations for strategies you can follow on your own. That said, your doctor may also recommend that you speak with a counselor to be sure that the procedure will be safe for your mental wellness as you work toward improved physical health.

Emotional and Mental Health Responses to Weight Loss Surgery Are Normal

According to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), it is quite common for patients who have weight loss surgery to experience mental and emotional responses, not just physical ones. If you are thinking of undergoing one of these procedures or if you have decided to go ahead with one, it’s a good idea to understand the types of emotional response that are possible before and afterward.

Common Emotional Responses

The following are some of the most common types of emotional and mental health responses to undergoing weight loss surgery:

  • Feeling a sense of loss – Even though you understand the nature of the weight loss surgery and know it occurred for your best health, it can feel strange to experience and see a sudden transformation in your body. This is particularly true if you have been overweight for several years. Despite the fact that you underwent the procedure for positive reasons and may even have looked forward to it, it’s normal to also feel that something was lost.
  • Adjustment struggles – These procedures don’t simply make body fat disappear and allow you to return to the way your life previously was. These surgeries require dramatic dietary changes, which can be challenging and life-altering.
  • Stress management changes – If food has previously played a central role in your self-soothing efforts, you will need to discover new stress management techniques, which can be difficult until they become regular habits.
  • Challenges with expectations – Although some of your expectations will be precisely right, other things won’t work out as you thought they would. Many of these will turn out to be blessings in disguise, but they can still present a challenge when they first happen.
  • Unwanted spotlight – When you undergo weight loss surgery, and your bodyweight starts to reduce visibly, it may feel difficult having so many other people looking at you and/or commenting, even if they mean well with complements.

If you struggle with these or other emotional or mental wellness challenges before or following your procedure don’t forget to bring it up with your doctor. Speaking with a therapist experienced in this area can help you to find your way along a much healthier and more positive path.