When multiple traditional dieting attempts fail, an increasing number of people resort to surgical procedures, such as a gastric band, in order to manage a weight issue that seems resistant to all other interventions. Few realize however, that a whole different set of problems may occur post op and that for an under-recognized minority of patients issues around food surface in a different disguise.
According to a 2007 Harvard study, 60% of people seeking surgical treatment for obesity suffer from an eating disorder, -in many cases manifesting as binge eating. Although a gastric band operation is unlikely to cause an eating disorder, those patients who had an untreated or unsuccessfully treated binge eating disorder prior to surgery, are likely to face the same problem, whether in the same or an altered form, post surgery.
It can be rather difficult to gauge the scope of this issue, as the symptoms of eating disorders such as Bulimia and Anorexia can mimic some of the expected adverse affects of the surgery. The aim of Baratric surgery is to reduce the stomach capacity making overeating highly dangerous, and post surgery there are added requirements to reduce food intake in order to allow the stomach to heal. For some, this period can mark the start where an already existing food related issue such as binge eating disorder gets transmuted into Bulimia, Anorexia and/or over-exercising. Reducing the physical ability to overeat to the extent that was previously possible, does not alter the psychological drive to overeat and where this issue has not been addressed, a new set of harmful behaviours may emerge. Naturally it is vital that a distinction is made between these medical reasons for eating disorder behaviour and true psychological cases of eating disorders and thorough screening pre and post surgery will go some way to aid this process.
Merely treating the symptom does not cure the underlying cause
The above issue clearly exemplifies the nature of addiction. It is useful to think of addiction as a coping strategy which was generated in a bid to self soothe, albeit to the detriment of the person’s health. Removing a coping strategy that has soothed a person through most of their lives, the addiction has to go somewhere else which is why it is key for the overeater anyone who battle with addiction, to explore alternative and healthy ways of dealing with emotional issues that are experienced as difficult.