Bariatric surgery enables significant weight loss over a short period of time, and supports recovery from physical conditions accompanying obesity, such as type 2 diabetes. Weight loss surgery is also linked to improved self-esteem, quality of life and increased life span.
However, surgery may have an impact on mental health, with some individuals struggling with psychological themes such as self-identity and body image.
The management of mental health is important, and best practice recommends the following underlying psychological issues are addressed both before and after weight loss surgery:
- Avoidance of emotions
- Relationship difficulties
- Negative core beliefs
- Poor body image
- Self-sabotaging behaviours
- Low self-worth
Some people, following their bariatric surgery, are able to adjust naturally to their rapid weight loss and new body image, yet others might experience difficulties in accepting their new appearance.
Weight loss is a welcome and wanted outcome of bariatric surgery, however, extreme weight loss can lead to loose skin, and some small scars may show following the laparoscopic surgical procedure.
Some individuals may continue to experience body dissatisfaction about their appearance, leading to major distress, critical internal thoughts that maintain low self-worth, and feelings of anxiety and depression.
When unhelpful thinking patterns are not challenged with psychotherapy, you may still see your body as unattractive and large, even if you have lost weight, and convince yourself through faulty perceptions that your weight loss surgery wasn’t successful in making you feel happier and more confident in your body.
Most people who choose a bariatric surgery procedure to provide rapid weight loss and better health, have developed unhealthy habits around emotional eating.
Somehow, somewhere in their timeline, their way of managing stress, anxiety and emotions has become enmeshed with their eating behaviour, often as a way of distracting from their emotional experience and providing comfort.
If this is not worked through in therapy, emotions that were originally soothed with food before surgery, will be more prominent and vivid in a world post weight loss surgery, where food is no longer freely available.
This in turn may trigger and activate new disordered eating patterns, such as chewing and spitting of food, purging behaviour or periods of severe food restriction following a binge eating episode.
Many people who are trapped in a cycle of emotional eating, experience an inner critical voice that fires up core negative beliefs around not being good enough. This reinforces low self-worth and can often result in feeling like a failure, and complex emotions like shame, which in turn can activate the cycle of emotional eating, and reaching for food for comfort.
Specialised psychotherapy before and after weight loss surgery can support clients in breaking down these unhelpful patterns of thinking, feeling and behaviour, and support the creation of new healthier ways to manage emotions and stress.
In some rare cases following bariatric surgery, when food is no longer available in the same way to manage emotions, a cross addiction may develop. This is a food or substance misuse behaviour, such as drinking, drug use or gambling, which are all ways to escape reality and distract yourself from painful emotions
PSYCHOTHERAPY FOR WEIGHT LOSS SURGERY
When psychological factors to weight issues run much deeper, and have influenced how your personality has been structured, a deeper psychotherapy is needed, that disconnects these early patterns with the unhealthy behaviours you find yourself repeating today.
Psychotherapy with our specialist team supports you in developing a new system, where you can manage stress, find balance with your eating, update your self-identity and experience your body in a healthy way.
We recommend our Integrate Package of support, where you work with our psychological and nutritional teams both pre and post your weight loss surgery, so we can prepare you for all the amazing life-changing opportunities that weight loss surgery can offer.