If you are planning to have weight loss surgery, you will most likely be required to have a psychological evaluation. Most insurance companies require this, and most surgeons require it also, so even if you’re not using insurance to pay for your surgery, you’ll probably still have to have it done. But why? And can you fail it? Can it prevent you from having the surgery? This is often a big concern for people hoping to have weight loss surgery. They get very nervous before their psych eval and worry about what to say.
You don’t need to get so worried, though. It’s really not such a big deal. It’s hard to “fail” the psych eval (although it can happen). Here’s what you need to know about it.
The purpose of the psych eval is to determine that patients understand what they are getting in to. The insurance company and the surgeon want to make sure you’ll not walking into this blindly. Weight loss surgery is a big thing and is not something to enter into lightly. You’ll need to make major lifestyle changes after your surgery. If you don’t, the surgery will not be successful. But not only that, if you don’t follow your doctor’s instructions, you could harm yourself. The psych eval is intended to make sure patients who are not likely to be compliant post-op are “weeded out.”
The psych eval can also help identify emotional issues that might interfere with your success. For instance, many overweight people eat as a way of dealing with emotions. You may already know this about yourself, if it does indeed describe you. But the psych eval can help you determine whether or not this is an issue for you, and if so, the mental healthcare professional can point you in the direction of some help for this problem. Because of course, you can’t continue to eat for emotional reasons if you hope to succeed at losing weight.
They psych eval will also probably address your support system. People with a strong support system are more likely to succeed at losing weight. Now, if you don’t have a strong support system, this will not disqualify you from having the surgery. But the mental healthcare professional doing the evaluation can help you identify your support people and can also offer suggestions for developing a stronger support system if needed.
Some people who hope to have weight loss surgery have a history of depression or other psychological problems, such as bipolar disorder. They often worry that this will prevent them from being able to have the surgery. That is not the case, however. Depression and other mental health problems are not a contradiction to having weight loss surgery, provided the condition is stable at the time of surgery. The psych eval can determine if this is the case.
The mental healthcare professional doing the evaluation will want to know what kind of treatment you’ve had for your problem and if you’ve been compliant with treatment. Someone who has bipolar disorder and who does not regularly take their medication, for example, might make a poor surgical candidate. You may be required to engage in treatment and be compliant with treatment for a period of time before being approved for surgery.
When you go for your psych eval, try not to be too nervous. Don’t worry about saying “the right thing.” Just answer the questions honestly. Remember, the mental healthcare professional doing the evaluation is not trying to keep you from getting the surgery. They are trying to make sure you have the best change of success. If there are emotional issues that might interfere with your success, you want to know about it. You want to maximize your chance of success.
If the psych eval uncovers issues that interfere with your success, a course of action will most likely be recommended for you. It might be that you get some individual counseling, or that you be consistent with your medication for a period of time, or that you attend some sort of support group. Your insurance company and/or your surgeon might require that you do this before having surgery. Try not to look at this as “failing” the psych eval, though. Look at is as having the opportunity to get the treatment you need.
If you disagree with the results of your psych eval, you can request a second opinion. In most cases, though, you’ll be better off just following the recommendations of the mental healthcare professional and waiting until they clear you for surgery.