Bariatric surgery is a life-changing – and often life-saving – procedure. Most people find that their quality of life improves after surgery, but it’s important to be aware of the potential complications that may arise, too. People who have undergone bariatric surgery experience higher-than-average rates of depression compared to the general population. Educating yourself about the risks can help you stay mentally healthy during the months after your surgery.
Why Are Bariatric Surgery and Depression Linked?
Mental health is a complicated topic, and specific causes of depression vary from person to person. However, there are a few reasons why depression occurs at higher rates in bariatric surgery patients.
- You had previous mental health issues. If you had mental health issues like depression or anxiety before your surgery, you will probably continue to deal with those issues after surgery. Surgery is a helpful tool for changing your life, but it won’t instantly fix all your problems.
- Adapting to a new lifestyle can be challenging. Most people end up embracing their post-surgery lifestyle, but the adjustment period can take a while. If you’ve been in the habit of relying on food to socialize, relax, or deal with your feelings, bariatric surgery forces you to find new ways to do those things. Some people even report that their friendships and relationships change after they have bariatric surgery.
- Your new body feels strange. When you lose a significant amount of weight, it can take a while for your mind to catch up to your body. At first, you might feel stuck in a body that does not feel like your own.
- Your hormones and nutrients are out of whack. Depression is often caused by chemical imbalances, and bariatric surgery has a high likelihood of causing such imbalances in the body temporarily. Changing the way you eat and losing a large amount of weight in a short time can leave you with low levels of serotonin. This makes you more vulnerable to mental health problems like depression.
Identifying Depression in Yourself
Could you be depressed? Depression doesn’t always mean feeling sad and crying all the time. Here are a few common symptoms of depression to look for in yourself.
- You feel numb or detached. You don’t feel sad – instead, you feel empty.
- You feel irritable. Everything annoys you, and you find yourself snapping at the people around you over unimportant things.
- You’ve lost interest in things you used to enjoy.
- You feel hopeless. It seems like things will never get better.
- You feel fatigued and unable to concentrate.
- You feel guilty. You might feel like you’re not good at anything or you’re a burden to other people.
- You’re having thoughts of hurting yourself. If this is the case, don’t wait – get professional help immediately.
If you experience any of these symptoms for two weeks or longer, make an appointment with your doctor or therapist. Depression is highly treatable, and there’s no reason you should suffer when help is available.
Preventing Depression after Your Surgery
Depression isn’t an inevitable side effect of bariatric surgery. Preparation and support can go a long way towards keeping you mentally healthy. Here are some things you can do to reduce your odds of developing depression.
- Research life after surgery. Do your homework, and know what you can expect after you have your surgery. Learn about how your life will change, so it doesn’t come as a shock when it happens.
- Plan to round out your diet with supplements. In particular, you may want to look into taking a tryptophan supplement, since that can help keep your serotonin levels normal. Ask your doctor about which other supplements you should be taking to keep your brain chemistry stable.
- Exercise every day. Exercise is a natural mood-booster. It will help you on your journey towards health, too.
- See a therapist. Whether you end up feeling depressed or not, a therapist can help you adjust to the changes of post-surgery life.