From the annual scientific meeting of the Obesity Society, Washington, DC–
Like it or not, bariatric surgery is becoming more common as a treatment for morbid (and even not so morbid) obesity, especially in adolescents and young adults.
Bariatric surgery sounds like a quick and easy fix–have surgery, lose weight, feel great. But, of course, it’s not that simple. A bariatric surgery symposium at this year’s annual scientific meeting of the Obesity Society included not only talks about pre- and post-op patient care, but also a talk and discussion about psychology and body image.
On one hand, many bariatric surgery patients struggle with body image after the procedure–their “love handles” are replaced by saggy skin, and they are still unhappy with their appearance. A new subset of plastic surgery is evolving to do body contouring on bariatric surgery patients, and some surgeons have been sued by dissatisfied patients, noted David Sarwer, Ph.D., a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.
On the other hand, some bariatric surgery patients (perhaps adolescents and young adults in particular) are so thrilled with their results that they want to make up for lost time by being promiscuous and engaging in other high-risk behaviors. “They’ve got a new sports car and they are taking it out for a ride,” Dr. Sarwer said. These young adults may go from “never been kissed” to dating three or four people at once, he said. Some clinicians have raised the issue of whether bariatric surgery patients who were addicted to food are likely to replace that addicition with something else, such as sex, drugs, or alcohol.
The bottom line for clinicians: Be aware of the range of possible psychological issues faced by patients who have had bariatric surgery, whether it brings out the beauty, the beast, or both.
–Heidi Splete (on twitter @hsplete)