bariatricmentalhealth

Coping with the Hurdles of Mental Health After Bariatric Surgery

September 25, 2019 / Dr. Sunil Bhoyrul

 

The risks of bariatric surgery expand beyond just the physical strain of the actual procedure itself. Bariatric surgery can take a significant emotional toll on the patient as well. A long history of societal stigma and bullying often causes weight loss patients to experience depression and mood swings prior to surgery.

While it’s to be expected that mental stress will alleviate over time as you lose weight post-surgery, you will still need time to adjust to your new lifestyle which comes with its own unique set of physical, emotional, and mental challenges.

 

Emotional Challenges You May Experience

 

Post-surgery, you may experience a range of conflicting emotions. On the one hand, you’ll likely be happy the procedure has been completed successfully.

 

On the other, you’ll have to contend with a variety of negative emotions as you adapt to your lifestyle changes as well as the new attention you will garner due to your sudden weight loss.

 

Let’s delve into the emotional challenges you may experience after weight loss surgery.

 

Psychiatric Consequences

 

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According to an analysis of 68 studies, approximately 25% of bariatric candidates have a mood disorder – the most common being depression.

 

Many patients experience the thought “why am I depressed” during the process of losing weight. The thought of the health benefits, weight reduction, and improved quality of life drive many people to approach weight loss surgery with unrealistic expectations.

 

Unfortunately, reality doesn’t always live up to the fantasy. You may not lose as much weight as you thought you would, or your post-surgery body may not look the way you imagined. As a result, you may experience depression, even as you shed pounds.

 

Social Status

 

Imagine waking up every day to face societal stigma for being obese. You would probably try to hide as much as you could – shopping late at night to avoid judging stares, sitting at the back of the room to ensure you’re unnoticed, etc.

 

After surgery, this will likely change. The type of attention you will receive will transform from judgmental to praise. While this should be a good thing, the extra attention and comments may make you feel emotionally vulnerable, and your tendency to “disappear” may come back stronger than ever before.

 

Judgment From Others

 

While many people will pay you compliments, others will judge you for “taking the easy way out.” Bariatric surgery often carries a stigma of its own. The prevailing thought is that obese people should exercise and diet their way to thinness.

 

Be prepared for even loved ones to have negative emotions towards your decision to have surgery. Sometimes these feelings stem from jealousy; other times it will manifest because the dynamic of your relationships will change to accommodate your new lifestyle choices.

 

Lifetime Behavioral Changes

 

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Old behaviors must become a thing of the past. Not only will you need to change your diet, but you must also become physically active. Bariatric surgery can only help you lose so much weight on its own.

 

If you’re not willing to make the necessary behavioral changes, your chances of long-term success will be significantly diminished.

 

Finding New Ways to Cope With Emotions and Stress

 

Addiction transfer is common after bariatric surgery, which involves trading in compulsive eating for another compulsive behavior. You may experience process addictions such as sex, gambling, or shopping.

 

You may even begin abusing drugs and alcohol. Food addiction may also reoccur after some time has passed after surgery.

 

Physical Consequences

 

When you lose a significant amount of weight quickly, your body may undergo a series of unwelcome changes. One such change is sagging skin. Think of your skin like a balloon – when it’s first inflated, it’s small and tight, but once it has been deflated, it doesn’t bounce back to its original shape.

 

Saggy skin can be unsightly to look at and could lead to yeast infections and rashes. Replacing the fat you’ve lost with muscle mass by exercising is one way to reduce saggy skin, but if you have a significant amount of extra skin, you’ll likely require cosmetic surgery.

 

Managing Negative Emotions Post-Surgery

 

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Handling the emotional changes that follow weight loss surgery is no easy feat, but it can be done. Let’s look at a few ways you can accomplish this.

 

Find a Support Group

 

We can’t promise that everyone around you will be supportive, but leaning on a network of friends and family you can trust is one way to keep your spirits high during your weight loss journey.

 

You will have your low points and your high points, but if you have a group you can lean on, you’ll be able to glean strength from those who are willing to support you.

 

Bring Awareness to Emotions and Feelings

 

Your awareness of your emotions falls into a spectrum that ranges from no awareness at all to complete emotional awareness. Post-surgery, your emotions may be unpredictable and problematic to identify, making it difficult to control them.

 

Learn to bring awareness to emotions and feelings so they can be addressed. One way to do this is by seeking out professional help.

 

Do Not Wait to Seek Counseling

 

If you need counseling, don’t delay. The sooner you’re able to identify and isolate negative emotions, the sooner you can resolve those feelings and move forward with your life. Depression and mood disorders often grow worse when left untreated.

 

You may find that speaking with a professional may be precisely what you needed to address the troubling emotions you may be experiencing.

 

Keep Working With Your Surgeon

 

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Aftercare is an essential part of long-term weight loss. Follow your doctor’s orders, including instructions on how to exercise and diet.

 

What may work for someone else may not work for you, so you must listen to the instructions of your bariatric surgeon explicitly to improve your chances of long-term weight loss.

 

Reaching Out for Help Today

 

Bariatric patients will experience a range of mental hurdles as they adapt to their new life. By learning to accept the changes to your body, and by finding a support group that helps to keep you centered, there are many ways to overcome shame and judgment and move forward.

 

Reach out to Olde Del Mar Surgical if you’re considering bariatric surgery. We care for our patients both physically and emotionally, providing the resources you need to cope with the emotional challenges. Contact us today for more information.

 

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Posted in Weight Loss, Bariatric Surgery