If you’ve been diagnosed with depression, you should be aware that having gastric bypass surgery and losing weight generally is not a cure for depression. Depression is most often caused by a combination of factors, including life circumstances and biological problems, such as a chemical imbalance in the brain. While some people do feel depressed about being overweight, especially if their weight causes serious health problems or seriously limits their daily activities, being overweight is usually not the only factor that contributes to depression in a person. If you suffer from depression before you have gastric bypass surgery, it’s likely that you’ll continue to have depression after your surgery.
Here are some things to consider regarding the treatment of depression after gastric bypass surgery.
- Many antidepressants are available in extended release formulas, which are convenient because they are designed to be taken only once a day. It’s much easier to take one pill per day instead of taking a pill three or four times a day. However, gastric bypass patients don’t absorb extended release medications well because with their shortened digestive tract, the medication doesn’t stay in their system long enough to be fully absorbed. Ask your physician about switching you to an antidepressant that is not an extended release drug.
- Don’t stop taking medication for depression right before having surgery, and don’t skip doses right after having surgery. Talk to your surgeon about how you will take your medication immediately after surgery. The day I had my gastric bypass operation, I did not take my morning dose of antidepressants since patients are usually advised not to eat or drink anything for 12 hours before surgery, but I took my antidepressants in the evening instead that day, about 12 hours after my operation. Medications can be crushed if your surgeon doesn’t want you to swallow pills that soon after surgery, and some medications are also available in a liquid formula. Skipping just a few doses of antidepressants can cause an increase in symptoms, and with some drugs, can also cause unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.
- If you have trouble taking your antidepressants after surgery because of nausea or any other reason, contact your surgeon. It’s very important to keep taking your medication, so your surgeon should help you determine the cause of the nausea and find a solution.
- Plan to see your psychiatrist or other physician regularly for the first several months post-op to monitor your depression and adjust your antidepressants if needed. While most gastric bypass patients seem to absorb antidepressant medication well enough, some find they need higher doses or need to change to a different drug.
- Some antidepressants can cause constipation as a side effect and constipation is pretty common after gastric bypass anyway. Talk to your surgeon about how to prevent and treat constipation if this is a concern for you.
- Consider seeing a therapist if you’re not already doing so. While medication can help a lot with depression, counseling can help a lot, too.