Weight Loss Surgery Linked to Increase in Self-Harming Behaviors

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Gastric Band Surgery Linked to Increase in Self-Harming Behaviors

A recent study has found that people who had self-harming behaviors prior to weight loss surgery tend to be more self-harming after the procedure. Obesity has been a problem in the U.S., and many methods have been developed to fight against it. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of U.S adults are obese, and the annual cost of treating obesity was $147 billion in 2008. One of the treatments used against the condition is Gastric band surgery. Dr. Amir Ghaferi, director of bariatric surgery at the Ann Arbor Veterans Administration Healthcare System in Michigan, said that it is “the most effective treatment of morbid obesity with a proven survival benefit.” Although the procedure is very effective, it was found that patients who had self-harming behaviors prior to undergoing the procedure tend to be more likely to exhibit more self-harming behavior, such as suicide, after the gastric band surgery is done. “While we are clear and confident about the medical benefits of weight loss, especially through gastric band surgery, I think we’re not as attentive to the potential psychological benefits or harms of it,” said Ghaferi, who wrote a commentary on the study, which is published in JAMA Surgery. The study, led by Junaid Bhatti, analyzed data from more than 8,800 patients, taken three years before and three years after their procedure. Of the group, 111 patients reported 158 self-harm emergencies within the post-surgery follow-up period. Additionally, most suicide attempts happened during the second and third year following the procedure. According to the researchers, about 93 percent of those suicide attempts were done by patients who were diagnosed to have mental health disorder prior to surgery. Intentional overdose was the most common method of suicide. The researchers pointed out some that previous research has possible explanations for the outcome, which include post-operative changes in alcohol metabolism, substance misuse, increased stress, and hormonal changes and not following the recommended Gastric Band Diet . Although the findings did not prove that weight-loss procedures do not heighten suicidal tendencies among the morbidly obese, it does emphasize the need to improve depression screening methods for surgery candidates prior to the procedure, and better follow-up care after surgery. “Because self-harm emergencies are a strong predictor of suicide, these findings highlight the importance of screening for self-harm behaviors in patients undergoing bariatric surgery,” the researchers wrote, as per LiveScience. According to Dr. Ghaferi, most medical programs only focus patient follow-up for the first year following surgery, and follow-up rates are generally poor. “We don’t really have a good way of screening these people,” Ghaferi said as per HealthDay. “We don’t have a good standard.” We should all try to do better at monitoring our patients post surgery.

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