I have mentioned in a previous article that the most dangerous part about weight loss surgery isn’t the actual surgical procedure, but the suicide rate that follows in the post-op stages. This begs the question, “If a person has lost a bunch of weight, then what is there to be depressed about? If they got what they wanted, shouldn’t they be happy?” There are a few reasons why there are holes in that logic and I will list a few reasons why depression might occur immediately after.
Harsh Realities Over Fantastic Expectations
The term “happily ever after “always bugged me when I got to the age of outgrowing fairytales. It always seemed like a lazy way of dismissing how a character’s life would change drastically to their new situations. A way to wrap something up without inconvenient questions or complication.
Believe it or not, American culture still very much pitches a lazy “happily ever after “to millions of people daily. They do this in the way they sell products, goods, or services to their target audiences. They promise that when you use their product and service, that everything will be fine, and that you will be happy and satisfied for the rest of your life. If they sell this right, their messaging causes their audience to associate their product or service with happiness and satisfaction, planting an expectation in the minds of the audience.
And while the product certainly does satisfy a need or demand that the public wants, the satisfaction that the product can provide the customer is only temporary.
Weight loss surgery is often pitched or built up by the public and the media as a sort of “happily ever after” type of goal. Often, audiences are told that if we lose weight that we will become more attractive, that people would respect us more, or that all our problems will be solved because it boosts our confidence. The only thing that weight loss surgery is guaranteed to do for you, is to help you lose weight. It cannot fix relationships, it cannot win you a high paying job, and it can’t guarantee the approval of your friends and family.
This is a crushing realization for some post-op patients and that sometimes contributes to depression after weight loss surgery.
The Loss of a Relationship with Food
All living things need some sort of sustenance to survive, whether its food, water, sunlight or algae. However, humans manage take it a step further by incorporating it into our culture. There are certain types of food that exist for certain types of ceremonies, like wedding cakes, and Christmas Ham. We use food to socialize, like going out on a date for dinner or coffee. Food is something we have a relationship with, and when you do a procedure that requires you to uproot that relationship, it gets hairy for post-op patients.
They start to feel excluded from certain habits and activities that serve as a way for them to bond with other people, and it makes them feel socially ostracized. And the worst part of it is that they not only can’t participate in social activities, they can no longer turn to food for things like comfort, and suffer the loss of a coping mechanism. That is one of the reasons why post op weight loss patients start to feel depressed.
Hormones and Chemicals
Human beings are creatures of habit. We eat, we sleep, and we live, day in and day out as we take comfort from our established routines. We even go so far as to take part in routines that soothes us when we are anxious and stressed. And the reasons for that are purely chemical. People often confuse the idea of depression as just a person feeling sad for a very long amount of time, usually as a byproduct of a stressful situation. But it is much more complicated than that.
Our brains rely on chemicals known as neurotransmitters to help us function as emotionally well-adjusted people. There are two that are specifically linked to depression, serotonin and dopamine. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter responsible for pleasure, and if your body isn’t producing enough on its own due to chronic stress, your mood will shift from satisfied to depressed. Dopamine is related to habit formation and motivation, and if you have a decreased level of dopamine, you will feel more lethargic, and be less likely to achieve a goal. And these systems are involuntary, meaning that it is something that no one has conscious control over.
While people undergoing weight loss surgery intellectually understand that it is a good solution to a serious problem, their bodies don’t always get the memo. All it knows is that it is being carved into, and rearranged, and that it must compensate for this major injury as soon as possible. So, chemicals and hormones are flying around in a panic, because it’s trying to adapt to a major and alarming change. So, it would make perfect sense for post op weight loss surgery patients to become depressed, since their bodies have gone through major trauma.
There is a myriad of reasons as to why post op weight loss surgery patients can become depressed. Post op depression does vary on a case by case basis, so if you know or someone you know are thinking about getting such a procedure done, it is strongly encouraged that weight loss surgery patients go through psychiatric counseling to make a smoother transition.