The mental health impact of bariatric surgery

Bariatric Surgery and Your Mental Health

Bariatric surgery can be a life-changing procedure for people struggling with obesity.

Weight loss surgery, however, is anything but a quick fix for weight loss. Those who undergo these procedures have to take on serious lifestyle changes before and after surgery. After significant weight loss, your physical transformation may produce emotions ranging from joy to sadness.

The Emotional Impact of Bariatric Surgery

Some people experience mental health issues before undergoing weight loss surgery. According to one recent analysis, 23 percent of patients seeking and undergoing bariatric surgery had been diagnosed with a behavioral health problem, including depression, anxiety, and binge eating disorder.

While bariatric surgery has been linked to a reduction of depression symptoms in some people, it can trigger those feelings in others.

The truth is, bariatric surgery can stir up a variety emotional responses such as:

  • After years of being overweight, your body has suddenly transformed. Even if it’s for the better, it can feel strange to “lose” part of your body and to see your appearance transform.
  • The extreme shifts in diet that accompany bariatric surgery (such as eating very small portions of some foods and avoiding others) can be a difficult adjustment.
  • If you were previously using food as a way to soothe yourself, you must find new ways to deal with stress.
  • You may feel disappointed or sad if you don’t continue to lose weight at the same pace over time.
  • You may feel uncomfortable suddenly being the center of attention or having others look at you, even if this attention is positive.
  • Your body may respond differently to alcohol after surgery, putting you at risk when drinking.

The Bariatric Surgery Center of Excellence at UPMC offers behavioral health services to people undergoing weight loss surgery.

Getting Help and Finding Support After Weight Loss Surgery

It’s standard for people undergoing bariatric surgery to receive mental health screening or counseling before the procedure. But for people with depression or other existing mental health issues, surgery may still be approved.

If you’re thinking about bariatric surgery, ask your doctor to recommend a therapist who has experience working with those who have undergone weight loss surgery.