Depression after weight loss surgery may occur for several reasons. Some people who experienced depression before their procedure find that the surgery itself does not make it go away, while others become depressed due to the significant changes that result from and are required after weight loss surgery. If you experience post-surgery depression, it’s important to work to understand its cause and ask for help when you need it.
Identifying Post-Operative Depression
After weight loss surgery, your body, lifestyle, and interactions with others will be going through major changes. Depression is a common reaction to this often overwhelming change. Some symptoms of post-surgery depression include fatigue and mood swings (keep in mind that fatigue is also a normal part of recovery).
Here are some feelings you may experience after surgery that can lead to depression:
- Grief. It’s normal to feel a sense of loss for your old life after surgery. You’ll most likely miss being able to eat the types and quantities of foods you used to eat, especially if you tended to use food as a coping mechanism. Realizing that you have to find a new, healthier way to make yourself feel better is overwhelming. It can help to remind yourself of all the health benefits associated with weight loss.
- Expectations. You may find that your expectations of weight loss surgery were unrealistic. If you feel a sense of disappointment after surgery, ask yourself what you expected of it in the first place; some people view weight loss surgery as a “cure all.” If you determine that your expectations may have been too high, focus on the things that have visibly improved since your surgery. Many people also worry about other people’s expectations of them. Are you worried that the people around you are just waiting for you to fail? Do you feel like you owe it to them to lose weight? Always keep in mind that ultimately, you’re doing this for your own health, and the people around you are likely to be supportive of your improvement.
- Guilt. Many people come out of weight loss surgery with feelings of failure for having needed the procedure in the first place. Don’t forget that while obesity can have many causes, it has few permanent solutions. You made the wise and brave decision to get healthier, and weight loss surgery has been proven to be the most effective way to achieve that end. Some people also feel guilty when they don’t immediately feel better about themselves when they start to lose weight. Even as the pounds start to come off, you’re still navigating the dietary, lifestyle, and (possibly) relationship changes that will help you achieve your ultimate goal, which can be overwhelming. Weight loss surgery can certainly improve your life, but make sure to give yourself enough time to adjust.
If you find that you’re depressed at any point after your surgery, don’t be afraid to talk to someone about it. Family members, friends, and support-group members are great sources of support. Also, your surgeon, nutritionist, counselor, and nursing staff are invaluable resources, as they will have worked with other patients who went through the same things you’re going through now. No matter who you turn to, don’t forget that reaching out for help when you need it is all part of the weight loss process.