How is Your Mental Health Impacted by Weight Loss Surgery?
If you’re considering weight loss surgery, you’re most likely thinking about how you’ll look after surgery and the amount of weight that you’ll lose.
The physical benefits of bariatric surgery go beyond just looking better, although that is a great effect! Weight loss surgery can also help you reduce the life-threatening complications that often come with obesity, such as high cholesterol, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
You may have already considered the fact that you will need to make changes to your daily routine and eating schedule to accommodate your newly sized stomach. But what many people don’t consider is the shift in their mental outlook – mostly for the good. However, there can be mental challenges you face that you weren’t expecting and should be aware of.
Mental Health Benefits of Bariatric Surgery
Anyone who is, or has been obese understands the negative emotional effects. Studies show that obese individuals are more likely to deal with mood disorders like depression and anxiety. Social stigmas regarding weight often lead to social isolation and a lack of self-confidence. Following a successful weight loss surgery you may notice:
More Confidence and Stronger Relationships
Weight loss surgery offers the first step in changing your life and your body, and losing weight after surgery can help reduce some of the mental health challenges linked to obesity. One study done by the Michigan Bariatric Surgery Collaborative asked patients about the changes they experience after surgery, not only in how they perceive themselves, but also in their relationships. Participants responded that they enjoyed more confidence, they didn’t feel invisible, and many noted that it helped strengthen their relationships. After losing weight post-surgery, most people note that they feel less isolated and happier.
Improved Quality of Life
Overall quality of life improvements due to improved health also have a positive impact on mental health after weight loss surgery. Obesity impairs a person’s overall quality of life. While it may take some time, weight loss surgery makes it possible to do more things including participation in family events, work activities and other things that are important to you. Being able to do this makes people feel better about how they’re living their lives. Being able to participate in some of the simple things of life that have become difficult make everyone feel better - from enjoying long walks with loved ones, to playing with kids/grandkids, to having more energy to enjoy things the way they use too.
Potential Mental Health Downfalls After Bariatric Surgery and How to Handle Them
Mood Disorders and Depression
According to Harvard Health, many people who are eligible for weight loss surgery have also been diagnosed with mood disorders. Around half of the candidates for surgery stated they’ve experienced a mood disorder like depression or anxiety at some point in their lives, often related to their weight. In most cases, the weight loss after surgery serves as a mood booster, with one-year post-surgery studies showing a reduction in depression, as well as anxiety. However, assessments of patients at two years and four years post-surgery, show that mood disorders were somewhat increased.
It's possible that unhappiness with the amount of weight loss or the frustration of hitting a weight loss plateau proved to be the cause of the increase in anxiety a couple of years after surgery. Experts are unsure whether this higher rate is due to disappointment with results, a history of dealing with depression, or the psychological challenges people often experience with severe obesity.
Whatever the case, this highlights the need for careful attention and a doctor’s oversight of your mental health both before and after your weight loss surgery. If you experienced mood disorders like depression before your surgery, it’s important to discuss this with your bariatric surgeon so that they can monitor you carefully.
Depending on the medicine that you take may lead your surgeon to suggest one surgery over another - many of the malabsorption surgeries like the gastric bypass and the duodenal switch can alter the absorption and effects of the medication, whereas the gastric sleeve usually will have no effect. It is important to discuss this with your surgeon.
Eating Disorders Before Surgery Can Lead to Dissatisfaction With Surgery Results
Up to a quarter of patients considering weight loss surgery also deal with a binge eating disorder, and some patients have night eating syndrome. Severe obesity often occurs due to underlying disordered eating patterns, whether they’ve been diagnosed or not. This means it’s essential to address these behaviors before having surgery and while you’re recovering.
If you’ve struggled with an eating disorder before surgery, don’t expect to be cured after surgery. This is a condition that you will need to work on with your healthcare team.
Be Prepared for Mental Challenges on Your Weight Loss Journey
Researchers continue following patients who have had weight loss surgery, uncovering more benefits and potential risks. Potential mental health problems like depression, anxiety, or eating disorders must be addressed before and after surgery to help ensure greater success once you’ve gone through surgery and start to experience weight loss.
With a good medical team behind you, it’s possible to navigate the potential downfalls and experience the mental health benefits on the other side of surgery.
Dr. Howard is interested in making sure his patients have the best results. Which is why he has a full mental health team and psychologist in his office to help address these issues before and after surgery.
Better health, improved quality of life, and improved self-confidence and overall happiness are worth pursuing. Of course, be sure to talk to Dr. Howard about whether weight loss surgery is right for you. If you do choose that path, move forward knowing the risks, be ready to address them head-on, and prepare to work with your team so you can enjoy both the health and mental benefits of weight loss surgery.
Categories: Weight Loss