Why is a Psychological Evaluation Necessary Before Undergoing Weight Loss Surgery?

Psychological Evaluation Before Weight Loss Surgery

Popular weight loss surgeries such as the laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy (LSG) help you lose excess weight and reduce your risk of potentially life-limiting obesity comorbidities. If you have a BMI of 40 or higher or a BMI of 35 with a weight-related ailment such as Type 2 diabetes, you may qualify for one of these life-saving procedures.

Before opting for bariatric surgery, you will need to be evaluated by a qualified bariatric surgeon. In addition to physical tests like blood screens, urinalysis, imaging tests, and electrocardiograms, you may find yourself being referred to a psychologist for a pre-bariatric psychological evaluation.

“Say what?” you may be asking. Why do you need to see a psychologist to undergo bariatric surgery? Does your surgeon think you’re crazy? Quite the contrary. There are many solid reasons why a visit with a psychologist and a detailed evaluation are necessary. This post will cover most if not all of them.

By the end of this post, you will be more familiar with the psychological evaluation process, the reasons your surgeon will refer you to a psychologist before qualifying you for bariatric surgery, some questions you may be asked, and what happens if you fail.

Don’t want to wait until the end? Get the answers you seek by calling Healthy Life Bariatrics in Los Angeles, California, the home of world-renowned bariatric surgeon Doctor Babak Moeinolmolki at (310)881-8503.

What is a Bariatric Surgery Psychological Evaluation?

Before you can qualify for bariatric surgery, you will visit a psychologist who will conduct a pre-bariatric psychological evaluation. This meeting lasts around an hour. It involves deep discussions about your reasons for seeking weight loss surgery, your history with weight loss, and other factors that will give the professional a better understanding of your readiness before greenlighting you for the procedure you want.

During the evaluation, the psychologist’s role is to collect important data about you, your motivations for wanting to lose weight, and elements that can affect your success, such as the engagement of your social support system.

At the same time, the psychologist is tasked with educating and motivating you in your pursuit of improved health. You may find yourself contacting the psychologist throughout your journey after being approved for bariatric surgery when faced with mental health struggles and barriers to weight loss.

While this meeting with a mental health professional may seem frivolous initially, the psychological evaluation is a critical step in the success of your weight loss journey.

What to Expect During a Pre-Bariatric Psychological Evaluation

A doctor is talking to a patient at a desk.

The first step to having weight loss surgery is to schedule a consultation with a bariatric surgeon. After the physical examination and associated tests have been conducted, you will find yourself being referred to a bariatric psychologist.

When you arrive at the meeting with the mental health expert for the psychological evaluation, you will first fill out paperwork that asks specific questions about your weight loss efforts, eating habits, drinking habits, use of alcohol, and the feelings you associate with those subjects.

The meeting with the psychologist generally lasts between 50 minutes to a full hour. During this time, you will be asked a variety of questions by the specialist. You are encouraged to be honest and to give detailed answers. The more thorough you are, the more accurately your mental health can be assessed in preparation for the weight loss surgery you have in mind.

What Kinds of Questions Will You Be Asked to Assess Your Mental State?

Here are some examples of questions you may be asked during a pre-bariatric psychological evaluation.

What Are Your Reasons for Seeking Bariatric Surgery?

The bariatric psychologist will be interested in the factors that have brought you to the conclusion that weight loss surgery is the right decision at this stage in your life. Most people seek out a bariatric surgeon after spending years struggling with weight loss. When all the diets and exercise programs have failed to work, weight loss surgery acts like a magic switch. It allows the excess weight to come off quickly.

Aside from difficulty losing weight, you may have other reasons for pursuing weight loss surgery. Maybe you wish to improve a current medical problem. Perhaps you crave enhanced mobility, greater amounts of energy, and the extension of your life.

All of these are valid reasons to undergo a bariatric procedure. The psychologist may want to linger on this topic and delve deeper if you cite external pressure to lose weight, for example. Or if you are mainly focused on your physical appearance based on unrealistic ideals.

What Is Your History with Dieting and Weight Loss?

This question will focus on eating habits and your weight loss struggles.

Eating Habits

When asked about your eating habits, be forthcoming to the best of your abilities. Many of us have at least some unhealthy eating habits. Having one or more unhealthy habits is not a reason for denying someone bariatric surgery. Instead, the psychologist will discuss your habits with you. The reason is so that you can engage in a successful transition into your new healthy lifestyle.

Weight and Diet History

You may find yourself creating a timeline during the psychological evaluation. This timeline identifies seeks to line up weight struggles with lifestyle events, such as marriages, job changes, and pregnancies. You will be asked about when your weight first became a problem in your life, the types of diets you have attempted, and the outcomes of those efforts.

The bariatric psychologist will ask about your family history of obesity and potentially unhealthy beliefs you may hold that involve weight. For example, you may have been taught at an early age that it is necessary to “clean your plate” during every meal as opposed to stopping once you feel full. These unhealthy beliefs can undermine your efforts in the future. By discussing these beliefs, the psychologist can help you challenge and modify your thinking so that your efforts are not undermined in the future.

Do You Understand the Specifics of the Weight Loss Surgery You Want and the Associated Lifestyle Changes?

After talking about your eating habits and weight loss history, the psychologist will ask about the surgery you have in mind. It is important for you to understand the specifics of the procedure and how your life will be affected. You may be asked to describe what you think the surgery entails. That includes the risks involved, the potential outcomes associated with the procedure, and the lifestyle changes required for success.

If you are unable to demonstrate a clear understanding of these factors, the psychologist may refer you back to the surgeon for additional counseling. The point is not to make you feel inadequate or unsmart. Rather, it is critical that you understand how your body and lifestyle will change.

For example, laparoscopic gastric sleeve surgery is minimally invasive and involves the removal of 80% of your stomach. The remaining stomach tissue is converted into a banana-shaped sleeve. These digestive changes force you to eat less. You also feel less hungry overall. But you still must do your part by eating healthy foods and engaging in regular exercise. The main idea is that bariatric surgery is not a magic wand. While weight loss does become easier following a bariatric procedure, all surgeries still involve personal responsibility to achieve weight loss success.

Do You Have a Social Support System?

A woman and a child sitting on a couch in a living room.

The dramatic lifestyle changes associated with bariatric surgery occur within the framework of the social network you surround yourself with. This includes your immediate family members that live within your household, your extended friends and family, work colleagues, and anyone else you regularly socialize with.

You will be asked about your home life and anyone who lives with you. Also, how do those people react to your decision to have surgery? Some people may find family members or coworkers feeling jealous of their weight loss, which can then lead to sabotage. Some spouses are uncomfortable when their partners lose a considerable amount of weight or are unable to eat and drink in a similar fashion to others during special events such as holidays.

Read our article: Should You Keep Your Weight Loss Procedure a Secret?

You may not have considered the social ramifications of weight loss surgery, which makes this discussion all the more important. Generally speaking, the more supportive your social network, the higher the chances of you achieving long-term weight loss success.

What is Your Psychiatric History?

With this question, the bariatric psychologist is asking specifically about your developmental history, traumas in your life, your history of depression, and the mental ups and downs you may have experienced. Everyone gets the blues, and many of us have experienced childhood trauma. By asking this question, the psychologist can identify potential stressors and triggers. They can also identify obstacles that may prevent you from being successful with weight loss surgery.

Read our article: Lifestyle Tips to Help You De-Stress Without Alcohol or Food

Why is a Psychological Evaluation Needed Before Weight Loss Surgery?

Required by Insurance Providers and Your Surgeon

If you hope for health insurance to pick up some or all of the tabs associated with a weight loss procedure, a psychological evaluation is usually required as part of your policy. Your surgeon also has a vested interest in determining how mentally healthy you are before signing you up for surgery. The better prepared you are mentally, the greater the chances of you losing weight and keeping it off for life.

An Evaluation Identifies Triggers, Challenges, and Habits That Inhibit Weight Loss

By gaining a superior understanding of your personality, weight loss struggles, eating habits, and social support system, the psychologist can give you the necessary tools to overcome all obstacles you may face.

The evaluation also helps to keep you motivated and educated, and your expectations realistic, which are all factors that contribute to a positive bariatric surgical experience.

To Better Understand the Impact Surgery May Have on You

A woman wearing a purple beanie and covering her face.

Your body and lifestyle will change after undergoing bariatric surgery, that much you can be sure. When the weight comes off, you may find yourself attracting more attention than you are used to. People may want to know what you did to catalyze such a transformation of your physique. This kind of attention can be distressing if you are not prepared for it.

You may experience mood swings on account of your inability to eat as you could before. You may experience body dysmorphia because you no longer recognize the body staring back at you in the mirror. These experiences are common with bariatric surgery patients. A bariatric psychologist can prepare you for what to expect so that you are never thrown for a loop once the weight starts melting away.

Read our article: Finding Body Acceptance After Bariatric Surgery Weight Loss

To Have an Ally to Better Prepare You for Surgery

During the psychological evaluation, it helps if you build rapport with the specialist asking you so many questions. Many patients find themselves calling on their bariatric psychologist as an additional resource after surgery when faced with postoperative lifestyle challenges.

What if You Fail the Psychological Evaluation? What is the Secret to Passing?

There is no pass or fail grade given during a pre-bariatric psychological evaluation. You can still qualify for surgery even if you have unhealthy eating habits or a history of depression. As long as you answer the questions asked of you honestly and demonstrate an ability to understand the surgery and how it will affect your life, chances are you will be given the green light by the psychologist and your bariatric surgeon.

Start on the Path to Long-Term Weight Loss Success In & Near Los Angeles

Now that you know more about the psychological evaluation process involved with bariatric surgery, and why the assessment is necessary, why don’t you take the first step to transform your life and health for the better?

Call Healthy Life Bariatrics, home of Doctor Babak Moeinolmolki, to discuss today’s more popular bariatric surgical procedures. The right surgery could help you obtain enhanced mobility, energy, and longevity. Get started now by calling (310)881-8503 to schedule a consultation.

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Healthy Life Bariatrics

Dr. Babak Moeinolmolki
Dicember 26, 2023
Dr. Babak Moeinolmolki
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