Obesity is a very common and serious condition that affects 42% of all adults in the United States.
Those who struggle with keeping a weight loss routine often turn to bariatric surgery to combat their obesity for a healthier life. Unfortunately, a healthier life post-surgery isn’t always the case.
In this article, we’re going to discuss the link between mental health and weight as well as how bariatric surgery can affect an individual’s mental health years later.
What Is Bariatric Surgery?
Bariatric surgery is more or less an umbrella term for a number of surgical weight loss procedures.
While each weight loss surgery slightly differs from the other, the goal is the same: to treat obesity via surgically inducing weight loss. These surgeries include gastric bypass surgery, gastric banding (e.g., lap band), and sleeve gastrectomy procedures.
To qualify for bariatric surgery, an individual must have a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or greater. If the individual has other medical conditions, their BMI must be 35 or greater.
However, before moving forward with one of the appropriate bariatric surgery procedures, doctors are typically advised to take a behavioral treatment approach with their obese patients. This is in addition to a change in diet and lifestyle.
If this doesn’t work, bariatric surgery is the next viable option.
How Weight Affects Mental Health
Research has shown that obesity is often linked to anxiety and mood disorders, such as depression and bipolar disorder. This means that obese individuals are usually more likely to suffer from a mental health condition.
The real question is whether or not obesity is the direct cause of mental health issues in overweight individuals or vice versa.
It all comes down to the individual. For some people, emotional distress or trauma may lead to overeating as a coping mechanism. For others, excessive weight gain leads to a negative self-image and feelings about one’s self.
Additionally, those who are obese often find it difficult to participate in positive activities, regardless of whether they involve exercise or not. This can make it even more challenging to cope with negative emotions, thus perpetuating the cycle of eating to feel better and feeling worse for continuing to eat for comfort.
How Bariatric Surgery Affects Mental Health
Weight loss is often associated with positive mental health affects, including a better body image. The weight loss followed by bariatric surgery is known to improve mood, at least initially.
However, the research is somewhat conflicting in terms of predicting an individual’s post-surgical psychological and behavioral changes.
For example, some research shows that depression scores in bariatric surgery patients fell as much as 40%. Other research saw the bipolar disorder and suicide rates in post-surgery patients sky rocket within just a few years of their surgery date.
This is largely attributed to the bariatric surgery candidates that have a history of mood disorders and anxiety. It’s also attributed to the psychological challenges that come with obesity, as well as disappointment with the results of the surgery.
While the overall causes remain hazy, they continue to pose a risk for individuals undergoing bariatric surgeries. Having said that, it’s critical that bariatric surgery patients are provided with the necessary mental health care before and long after their surgery date.
If you’ve recently undergone a bariatric surgery or are considering it, let us help you with your mental health. Contact us today to schedule an appointment or to learn more about the accessible services we offer.