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Psychological Effects of Obesity

By Dr. Muhammad Feteiha, Advanced Surgical Associates

Understanding obesity means much more than calorie counting and exercise regimens. Yes, the results of obesity are most visible in someone’s physical presence, but the psychological effects of obesity are downright insidious.

Patients suffering from obesity can be severely distressed as a result of years of emotional trauma, self-doubt and stigma associated with their weight. Further, many social activities and career opportunities are curtailed, either due to discrimination or a lack of self-worth. Obese people can often turn to substances of abuse to cope with the problems and missed opportunities in their everyday life.

The risk of addiction doesn’t end with surgery however. Due to a phenomenon known as addiction transference, some patients will replace their addiction to food with abuse of or dependence on a substance such as alcohol. The chances of this happening can be increased if the patient has a hard time adapting to their new body and lifestyle.

As bariatric surgeons we treat the physical component of obesity. Through surgery, we are often able to help patients resolve many obesity related diseases and help them lose weight, increase mobility and enjoy everyday activity again. A significant part of our job, however, is to address the underlying psychological issues that our patients experience, both before and after surgery. Addiction counselors and bariatric surgery practices can often work together to effectively offer a holistic treatment for obesity.

Dr. Muhammad Feteiha is a contributor to The Academy for Addiction Professionals’ blog and performs bariatric surgery in New Jersey.