The mental health impact of bariatric surgery

Bariatric surgery can be a life-changing procedure for people struggling with obesity.  If you are considering weight loss surgery, you should know that this procedure can affect your mental health.

In addition, significant weight loss and physical transformation may produce strong emotions ranging from joy to sadness.

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The Emotional Impact of Bariatric Surgery

Some people experience mental health issues before undergoing weight loss surgery. Unfortunately, weight loss surgery can have significant mental health risks.

According to one analysis, 23 percent of patients seeking and undergoing bariatric surgery had been diagnosed with a behavioral health condition, 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 same 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 now 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 people living with depression or another existing mental health issue still may be approved for surgery.

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.


Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .

About UPMC Bariatric Services

UPMC Bariatric Services is here to help if you’re struggling with obesity and want to lose weight. We offer both surgical and nonsurgical weight loss plans and can help you find the right path for a weight-loss journey. We will work with you to discuss your needs and develop and individualized treatment plan. We meet the highest level of national accreditation for bariatric surgery centers, and our team provides complete care. We offer our services at UPMC locations throughout Pennsylvania and New York. Visit our website to find a provider near you.