The excitement and anticipation of weight loss can often overpower the reality of lifestyle changes that occur after weight loss surgery. This can be very impactful on the patient’s life and their loved ones. Mild depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts become prevalent during the first few months after surgery. One study concluded that 1/3 of their sampled bariatric patients developed depression postoperatively. Here are a few examples of why depression occurs:
Grieving old habits and relationship to food:
Typically, our social calendars are full of lunches and dinners, celebrations and events which all include food. Holiday traditions are especially impacted as we try to find substitute foods or struggle as we miss out on the festivities. Unfortunately, “head hunger” defined as cravings that are not linked to physical need to eat – and triggers, such as stress, are still there and comfort foods are no longer an emotional go to. The realization and the ability of the “right to choose” is gone. This can lead to feelings of isolation.
Regretting the surgery:
Once the realization of lifestyle changes arise, regret can set it. Choosing elective surgery can often have this effect as patients say to themselves, “What did I do? Why did I think this was a good idea?” Expectations can play a role as some think surgery will make things easy and underestimate the commitment it takes. Lifestyle changes like eating habits and activity, are hard enough to start before surgery. It now becomes a must to successfully use this tool of weight loss surgery.
Fear of weight gain:
This is true with any kind of weight loss plan. Once we put in the work, we want it to stick. Family and friends may unknowingly play a part in this by commenting on weight loss – too much or too little – what and how you eat your food – which can discourage patients in the early stages.
Weight loss patients who come into the clinic may have tried at least 15 diets on average and think surgery is the last resort, but it is the only weight loss plan that has long lasting results. Grieving food and regretting the surgery are postoperative emotions patients struggle with, however, those who feel regretful state this feeling goes away after month 5 postoperatively and regret not having done the surgery sooner and once your new eating regimen has become a habit, the grief subsides, leading you into a newfound life having more energy, overcoming disease states and improved eating habits! This will impact and lessen the fear of weight gain in the future.
Signs/symptoms of depression:
- Lack of interest in anything they enjoyed before
- Fatigue and lack of motivation
- Unable to concentrate
- Thoughts of suicide
- Please see our Patient handbook for more information on Depression – page 26
- Discuss the signs/symptoms of depression with your family and friends and talk about the changes to come.
- IF you have depression or anxiety BEFORE weight loss surgery (WLS), please be aware it can increase during the first few months after surgery.
- Always seek out professionals that have history of working with weight loss surgery patients.