Post-Surgical Depression, You’re Not AloneJuly 21, 2014
I love those moments when I see someone doing something I only do in my house, alone, while I'm thinking, "I must be the only person in the world who does this." It relieves me greatly to know that when I experience things, I am not alone.
Well, if you, or any of your post-surgical friends, are having some after-weight-loss-surgery-why-is-this-happening depression...you're not alone. Research studies and my own observations have shown that, even with complete willingness to have the surgery, successful weight loss and minimal medical complications, some people actually experience increased depression following surgery.
Depression and Post-WLS
Some people report mild depressive symptoms such as feeling sad, struggling to feel motivated or feeling less pleasure. (Mild, but still difficult to cope with.) Others report more severe symptoms like total loss of interest in activities or thoughts about suicide. Whatever your symptoms are, it can be discouraging, to say the least, to experience depressive symptoms after making a difficult choice to change your life for the better.
Factors that Can Cause Post-Surgical Depression
- Underlying, untreated depression that existed before the surgery.
- Changes in levels of serotonin and estrogen in the body.
- Depression can also result from the massive changes in food and diet that accompany the surgery.
Although the joy of weight loss and the excitement of health improvements are very satisfying, these emotions do not replace all related unpleasant emotions. Many people, for example, are surprised by how much they are grieving the loss of the relationship they had with food. They miss the comfort, the reward, the companionship, the relaxation associated with, for example, that big meal at the end of the day.
Others begin to realize how much they relied on food as a buffer in social situations or as a coping skill for all kinds of difficult emotions. Some people, as they begin to lose weight and feel better physically, are confronted with the reality that their weight was not the source of many of their problems (i.e., in their marriage, their unhappiness at work, etc) and they have to start fighting other demons in their lives.
You Must Take Care of Yourself After WLS
As difficult as dealing with these issues can be, I respect surgery for many of these reasons. As we know, surgery is no easy fix and it requires someone to make serious, lifelong changes. This, I believe, is a gift of surgery. Unlike some other surgeries, this surgery confronts you and says, "Are you ready to pay attention to yourself? Are you ready to change, forever, the way you treat yourself?"
Surgery is an invitation to be mindful, to get to know your authentic self and to readjust your life so that you can live congruently.
No longer can you overwork and run around like a maniac all day, ignoring your basic need of hunger, and eat a huge meal at the end of the day. No longer can you work a job you hate and fix it by eating a plate of nachos. No longer can you be in a sexless marriage and satisfy your craving with a huge piece of chocolate cake. In order to be successful, weight loss surgery requires you to pay attention to and take care of yourself.
If you are experiencing some depression, my first recommendation is to talk to your doctor and rule out or treat any medical issue and/or hormonal imbalances. My second recommendation is to TALK ABOUT IT...with friends, with fellow post-surgical peers, in groups, with a professional counselor. You need to be reminded that you are not alone. Your depression also may be telling you that you need some support as you grieve the loss of your previous relationship with food or that you are on the cusp of making some important life changes.
Change is beautiful and, when done honestly and mindfully, it leads us to a more authentic life where we feel free, happy and connected. But change is also scary and can be painful. The rewards are worth the effort but do not go this road alone. We are all more similar than we realize, sometimes all we need to do is speak up and reach out.
ABOUT THE AUTHORAngela Taylor is the Licensed Clinical Social Worker for the Khalili Center and has a dedicated private practice, Real Help Therapy. She offers understanding in order to prepare for post-op changes. Angela is consulted regularly as a weight management and eating disorder expert, some of her recent projects include: O, The Oprah Magazine, a two-hour special on OWN and multiple quotes in the New York Time’s Best Seller 20 Years Younger.
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