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Bariatric Surgery and Mental Health:  Personality Changes After Bariatric Surgery

Bariatric Surgery and Mental Health: Personality Changes After Bariatric Surgery

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      Bariatric surgery is a fast track decision for personal transformation. Your brain and body go on a journey of self-discovery while adjusting to a new physical and mental state. Your altered physical body is permanently changed. Your mind's perceptions of your surroundings are affected by sudden weight loss. The lasting changes coincide with your relationship with food. Learning helpful techniques to manage your new lifestyle is encouraged and highly beneficial.

      Common personality changes after bariatric surgery include:

      • Enhanced self image
      • A decrease in depression symptoms
      • Increased self esteem
      • Advocating for healthy lifestyle changes

      Morbid obesity leads to a disconnect from your body. Avoiding mirrors that reflect your unhappiness with your current physical state leads to a withdrawal from life. After a substantial amount of weight loss, adjusting to a new body image post-surgery can often lead to many psychological difficulties for many bariatric patients.

      Woman with her hands above her head smiling.
      A positive network helps maintain your lifestyle goals post-surgery.

      Creating a Network of Support

      Counseling is strongly recommended pre and post-bariatric surgery to combat all of the negative habits developed that lead to your unhealthy state. Counseling allows for permanent changes to solidify for a successful life after bariatric surgery.

      Good support systems include encouragement from a counselor, spouse, parent, friend, sibling, or co-worker. The supportive influences from others help remove toxic, unhealthy, and destructive relationships that halt your progress.

      As a bariatric patient, I understand the value and need for quality physical and mental health. Battling the chronic disease of morbid obesity is a long and continuous journey that requires attention and mindfulness daily for the tool to remain effective long term.

      An awareness of your state of mind and body takes years of practice. Counseling encourages an understanding of your cues, indicating distress and exhaustion.

      Common problems bariatric patients encounter is not recognizing and listening to their cues of reaching their maximum mental and physical capacity.

      Counseling teaches the importance of placing and maintaining personal boundaries with yourself and others. My relationships with myself and others have evolved post-surgery significantly due to my ability to express my thoughts more articulately and accurately as my personality is more defined.

      Person under water with their arm reaching out above the surface.
      Low mood, isolation, and feelings of hopeless are common symptoms of depression.

      Negative Personality Changes After Bariatric Surgery

      Depression and Personality Post Surgery

      Depression is a side effect many bariatric patients might see occur after about one-year post-surgery. A medical reason for the increased likelihood of a depressive episode post-surgery is changing your diet post-surgery can lead to more negative emotions due to the absence of carbohydrates and sugar that can affect serotonin levels.

      Because of these chemical changes in your brain, there is an increased likelihood of a reoccurring depressive episode when there is a history of depression pre bariatric surgery.

      Twelve months post-surgery, I experienced my first depressive episode. At this point, I had lost over one hundred and fifty pounds. I was surprised that my thoughts turned negative, emotional, and troublesome. According to my bariatrician, there is a stronger likelihood of depression after surgery when there is a history of depressive episodes in your medical history.

      Currently, my depression is monitored by my bariatrician and primary care doctor. I am on an antidepressant, attend weekly counseling, and exercise to help maintain or elevate my moods.

      Having an awareness of your mental state is essential in success pre and post-bariatric surgery. A strong support network, while navigating through these lifestyle changes, is necessary for lifelong success.

      Woman sitting on a deck meditating in the sun.
      Mindfulness helps promote positive self-image.

      Body Dysmorphia and Personality Post Surgery

      Body dysmorphia, According to the Mayo Clinic, is a disorder where you cannot stop thinking about the perceived flaws in your appearance, a weakness that appears minor or cannot be seen by others. Basically, not recognizing or feeling comfortable with the person reflected at you in the mirror.

      Body dysmorphia, or a lack of recognizing your new body, occurs with bariatric patients failing to see anything other than the heavier version of themselves. They still feel obese, even when the number on the scale, their normal BMI and smaller clothing sizes indicate differently.

      Therapy is recommended strongly by bariatrician to help navigate this new lifestyle and mindset post-bariatric surgery.

      Accepting your new normal body shape does not happen overnight, especially if you have been battling obesity for years or your whole life.

      The process of acceptance is a long road. Still, I have personally found therapy extremely useful in managing my physical expectations and being grateful for my success while lowering my perfectionist tendencies.

      The mind needs time to grieve its past body shape and catch up with its current physical state.

      "You Got This" written on asphalt in chalk.
      Healthy mindset go far in meeting current goals and setting new goals.

      Positive Personality Changes After Bariatric Surgery

      Increased Physicality and Energy Post Surgery

      The aftermath of bariatric surgery should force every patient to be aware and cautious about it. There are many possible side effects of bariatric surgery, which include many new positive changes.

      Common Positive Personality Traits are:

      • Increased Assertiveness
      • Improved Confidence
      • Strong Self Advocate
      • Optimistic Change in Perception of Oneself
      • Positive Change of Relationship Dynamics

      Substantially lower weight allows joints and muscles to function at a better capacity.

      The body can absorb its nutrients more readily. Joint and muscle pain also decreases significantly due to the loss of excessive weight on the spine and joints.

      I experienced lower back issues due to my substantial amount of weight around my abdomen.

      My excessive weight increased pain around my lower spine and its surrounding muscles. I also experienced sore knees, which have been eliminated due to my significant amount of weight loss.

      An increase in energy and a more positive attitude is common post-surgery. Experiencing life at a different weight allows for increased excitement and joy.

      Your curiosity can flourish and move your life forward instead of living life on the sidelines as a spectator. You are now a participant in your own journey by actively pursuing all avenues you previously withdrew from. This is a phenomenon to which I can easily relate.

      Motivational signs hanging on a fence.
      A strong support network aids in your journey of a healthy mind and body.

      Due to the substantial weight loss post-surgery, vitamin supplements are essential in maintaining your health due to the decrease in absorbing all necessary nutrients. Maintaining a healthy mind and body helps with any personality changes after bariatric surgery and slumps along the way. All of it is manageable through monitoring your progress and changes and working carefully with your bariatrician and dietician.

      My personality became more defined after bariatric surgery, which included more positivity, cheerfulness, and optimism. Still, they also come moments of despair, low self-esteem, and hopelessness that took me by surprise at their level of intensity and rawness. Awareness is key to the functioning and tackling all emotional experiences that come along in life.

      Sign that reads, "Difficult roads lead to beautiful destinations."
      Never too late to get back on track. Each day is a fresh start.

      Personality Changes After Bariatric Surgery Overall

      It is common to experience a more defined version of your personality post-surgery. Having feelings and thoughts bubble to the surface that has never manifested before.

      You are physically different, and your mind needs space and time to catch up. Familial relationships will be tested and changed because of your significant transformation on the outside and inside. Because of your newfound health journey, your relationships will either learn to adjust and grow with you, or they will deteriorate and cease to exist.

      My personal experience with changing relationship dynamics is between my parents and siblings. My siblings only knew me as a more significant person with a meek personality for over 24 years. Before and after bariatric surgery, I was finding my voice, enhancing and evolving my personality with greater confidence and self-esteem.

      My awareness increased as did my desire and need for boundaries and effectively communicating my needs.  I have always been challenged with a lack of patience, but through this health process, I have learned how to listen better, communicate clearer, and learn impulse control.

      My mental health skills are currently managed weekly through the help of a therapist. My evolved role within my own family has been met with mild resistance, but overall I have assembled a valuable support system. Throughout this process, my personality was not erased, but became more defined; my needs are expressed clearly and efficiently.

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        Kelsey Renae Schulze


        Kelsey is a post-op bariatric patient who had sleeve surgery in 2018. She is a writer, focusing on a variety of topics given her background in legal studies and criminal justice.