Is Bariatric Surgery An Effective Solution For Obesity-Related Depression?
Anyone who has suffered with obesity can attest to the significant psychological and emotional toll it can take on a person. It can lead to low self-esteem, anxiety and depression. So it raises the question: will a patient shed the psychological burden associated with obesity along with the excess weight after bariatric surgery?
Let’s begin with the understanding that psychological and emotional issues like depression and anxiety are serious and complex illnesses. The experiences of some patients may not be the same as others. We encourage any of our patients who are struggling with such troubles to seek professional help.
The Prevalence of Psychological Comorbidities in Obese People
You may be familiar with the physical comorbidities associated with obesity such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and heart conditions, but there are other equally insidious comorbidities that can affect the patient’s psychological health. Studies have indicated that obese people are 5 times more likely to have experienced a significant depressive period in the past year than people of average weight.
Perhaps, this is not so surprising when one considers that personal body dissatisfaction and the effects of discrimination are both known to cause or aggravate depression. This can further be compounded by repeated failed attempts to lose weight, leading to a sense of hopelessness and diminished self-esteem. Certainly, the sense of hopelessness can be made even worse with the diagnosis of a serious physical co-morbidity like cardiovascular disease.
The Psychological Impact Of Bariatric Surgery
Numerous studies have been made in an attempt to measure and quantify the emotional benefits of bariatric surgery. A great many of them have reported overall improvement in self-esteem, body image and depressive symptoms. Perhaps the most telling of these studies is the Swedish Obese Subjects (SOS) involving over 4000 patients. A significant decrease in depression and anxiety in the year following the surgery was reported, compared to obese controls who were only treated with diet and exercise counseling.
A comprehensive review of 40 studies conducted between 1982 and 2002 suggests that the psychological and emotional troubles are directly related to the excess weight rather than an underlying factor in the patients’ character.
The improved psychological health can be related to more than the weight loss and improved self-image. Some patients saw emotional improvements before significant weight loss had occurred. Perhaps this is due to patients feeling they have taken positive action to improve their lives and therefore regained control and hope over their fate.
So, while it would be irresponsible to suggest that bariatric surgery is a cure for depression, anxiety and other psychological concerns in obese patients, the studies clearly suggest that many patients have experienced significant improvements in their emotional and psychological health thanks to bariatric surgery.