bariatric surgery, mental health

Could Your Mental Health be at Risk after Bariatric Surgery?

Bariatric surgery can be very effective with type 2 diabetes, even putting it in remission. While there are life-changing aspects of the surgery, there are also other effects of which those considering it should be aware. Those effects have to do with mental health, alcohol, and drugs. 

Bariatric surgery

Bariatric surgery is a major surgery that makes drastic changes to your body. It changes the way you metabolize food and alcohol, and changes the way your body looks. While your new body will be a positive thing, it also may be emotionally difficult to get used to these changes. There will be new habits, sagging skin, and perhaps weight loss that was not as drastic as you imagined.

So before embarking on weight loss surgery, learn as much as you can, and be aware of the psychological effects it could have.


Study on bariatric surgery and mental health

A recent study showed that bariatric surgery can worsen mental health issues that were already present, or introduce new mental health problems after surgery. The study, published in JAMA Psychiatry, examined 25,000 patients who had gastric bypass surgery, and followed up with them over a 10-year period. 

Of these patients, there was a five-fold increase in emergency room visits for self-harm. There was also an overall increase in the use of mental health services. The risk was even higher for those who experienced complications with their surgery or who had previous mental health problems.

“Patients with prior histories of major psychiatric illness, self-harm or eating disorders are probably at greatest risk and should have a period of mental health stability and professional psychiatric input before even being considered for bariatric surgery and then regularly followed up by their mental health teams post-operatively,” said David Morgan of St. John of God Subiaco Hospital in Australia. 

Study on alcohol and drug death after weight loss surgery

A second recent study examined the effects of drugs and alcohol on those who have undergone bariatric surgery. The physiological changes after gastric bypass leave the stomach less chance to metabolize alcohol. After weight loss surgery, the body processes alcohol very differently, which can lead to becoming intoxicated with fewer drinks and becoming more emotional with alcohol. 

In the study, published in Surgery for Obesity and Related Diseases, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh found that those who had Roux-en-Y gastric bypass were three times more likely to die of drug- or alcohol-related incidents.


Weighing your options

Before having weight loss surgery, your surgery center will go through a process in which you are screened for mental health issues and other physical problems. It is important to get treatment for trauma and any psychiatric illness prior to having surgery. If you have a history of mental illness or trauma, it’s also important to routinely see a mental healthcare provider.  

There are a lot of factors to consider before undergoing weight loss surgery. While there are definitely benefits, it’s vital to weigh all the factors and be aware of mental health impact the surgery could have.