What to Expect: Emotional Changes After Weight Loss Surgery

September 12, 2017

Weight loss surgery is a significant life event that’s often associated with the emotional struggles of obesity. With that said, many people experience mood swings and bouts of depression immediately after their procedure. These emotional fluctuations are completely normal and stabilize over time. Here are some common causes:

1. Social Pressures and Situations

Sticking to a new diet can be extremely challenging after any weight loss procedure. Social gatherings can become stressful encounters with high-pressure offerings of food that, at the least, won’t stay down and, at the worst, will rekindle a desire for more.

As patients adapt to their new body, it is common to feel isolated or uncertain. Having an encouraging network of friends and family who support healthy living practices can prove invaluable—especially when they are willing to make positive changes to their own routines and habits.

2. Serotonin Depletion

Serotonin is a chemical neurotransmitter that helps to balance mood, keep anxiety at bay and promote an upbeat outlook on life. For bariatric patients, a few simple facts complicate being able to maintain these optimal levels:

  • A full 80 to 90 percent of the body’s serotonin is found in the intestinal tract.
  • The brain must produce all serotonin that it needs because the neurotransmitter cannot cross the blood-brain barrier.
  • With a high-protein diet, the brain is able to better utilize tryptophan and produce more serotonin, leading to increased feelings of satisfaction and happiness.

Over time, high-protein requirements and nutrient absorption issues can result in serotonin deficiencies. Low levels of serotonin can impact a person’s mood, as well as their appetite and ability to sleep.

The good news is that exercise, exposure to sunlight and a positive outlook are effective tools that help to build serotonin levels, improve mood and keep life in focus. Staying active, enjoying the outdoors and remaining socially engaged are key.

3. Medication Malabsorption

Some bariatric procedures limit or eliminate portions of the digestive tract to prevent the body from absorbing calories. However, they can also affect how efficiently the body can break down and absorb certain types of medications.

Malabsorption issues can mean that prescriptions that worked prior to surgery may no longer be effective because of how quickly food moves through the body. Dosages may need to be adjusted due to these changes, so consult your doctor to address any medication issues that arise.

You may need to remind prescribing doctors, physician’s assistants or nurses of the unique challenges and requirements of your post-op body. Effective alternatives for most medications are available.

4. Internal Pressures and Expectations

Too often, we are our own worst enemy. Unrealistic expectations and self-imposed deadlines can defeat even the strongest mindsets:

  • Friends and even close family members may not seem as supportive as you want or need them to be.
  • Food and lifestyle choices may initially be more difficult than you thought they would be.
  • Weight loss may be slower—or faster—than you’d anticipated it would be.
  • Initial complications may slow progress or require additional care.
  • Losing weight may have unexpected results or may not resolve issues you thought it would.

Setbacks may be disappointing, but being gentle with yourself and others can make long-term success not only possible but a reality.

Recognizing Signs of Depression

Researchers are finding that many individuals experience various levels of depression both prior to and following any type of surgery. Common symptoms include:

  • Constant fatigue
  • Loss of interest in everyday activities
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Indecisiveness or inability to make decisions
  • Irregular sleep patterns—either too much sleep or not enough
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety, irritability or aggression
  • Thoughts of self-harm or harm to others

Each person’s experience with weight loss surgery remains unique. While some glide through the process, many more travel a road of ups and downs. For those who find themselves battling feelings of hopelessness and frustration, additional help is both necessary and available.

At Acadiana Weight Loss Surgery, we provide pre- and postoperative support for every procedure to ensure a smooth recovery. If you are experiencing emotional distress after weight loss surgery, contact our team today. We offer free post operative support sessions to aid patients adjusting to their new lifestyle.