So what’s the connection between bariatric surgery and therapy? If you’ve gotten the operation done or are considering it, you are probably aware that you have to do a psychological evaluation before going through with it. (Yes, we offer these, and we explain what this is all about here.)
But what about after the surgery is over? Sometimes, apart from clearing a patient for the surgery, we will recommend or require that a patient undergo therapy before, during, or after the operation. Here are some of the issues that may come up around bariatric surgery that can affect a person’s mental health.
Mental health disorders
This may be obvious, but mental illness can really get in the way of a successful outcome to the surgery. Certainly if a person is actively psychotic or has a serious and chronic condition such as schizophrenia they may not be a candidate for the surgery at all. Depression can sap motivation to prepare the healthful foods your body will need and to avoid the ones that you will no longer be permitted. An anxiety disorder can wreak havoc on your peace of mind as you try to adjust to your new lifestyle. If you think you may be facing any of these challenges, getting a professional counselor on board your recovery team is probably a good idea.
Habits and addictions
Most physicians will ask you to stop smoking and drinking alcohol after the surgery for various reasons (see https://asmbs.org/patients/life-after-bariatric-surgery). While individual therapy alone is not necessarily the best approach for beating an addiction, it might be a component of a plan to quit.
Compulsive overeaters are another group that have a significant psychological struggle ahead of them. Whether eating has become an addiction or is merely a bad habit – for example, if you’re the kind of person who heads for the Ben & Jerry’s any time you’re stressed out – counseling may be needed in order to gain control of it. Problematic eating habits can naturally cause serious problems for postoperative health.
Stress of any kind can put psychological pressure on you that makes it hard to keep up the lifestyle changes you may be working on. Many of the life challenges that push people into therapy can be even more difficult on those who are working hard at maintaining the changes required after bariatric surgery. Getting fired from a job, academic troubles, legal problems, and other of life’s normal tests can bring a lot of stress with them. If you’re facing a stressful situation, you may want to consider getting into regular therapy before it impacts your weight management routine.
Ideally you have friends and family cheering you on as you go through this process. However, any family therapist worth his/her salt will tell you that families often resist change and push to keep the status quo, even when it isn’t necessarily working. You may find that your spouse gets down on you for trying to make changes that s/he claims you can’t make, or that your parents aren’t as supportive as you expected they’d be.
In addition, your friends and colleagues might be jealous of your success or your new good looks. If so, you may face tension and criticism where there was once friendship and camaraderie. Dealing with this negativity can be tough, and is certainly something a counselor can help with.
Bariatric surgery and therapy are sometimes importantly linked. This post is by no means an exhaustive list of the challenges you might face after going through with bariatric surgery. If you need a therapist to help with these or any other situations, or would like to talk with us to see if therapy would be right for you, contact us today!