Sunday, November 23, 2014

Suze's Muses - “Why are you doing this, anyway?” – a look at the psychological portion of pre-op testing

Greetings once again from the Musings of Suze!  Today I’m offering my proverbial 2 cents regarding a topic I see many folks concerned about…the psychological “exam” that’s a part of the approval process for WLS.  I didn’t include it in my post about the other portions of the testing process, because I don’t personally view the psychological test in the same ilk as all of the others. 

The other tests we go through fall into the “it is what it is” category.  As we’re lying on the table, there’s not much we can do to change the status of our lungs, our liver or any of the other internal lovelies someone is taking a look at.  The psychological exam, however, is one that not only makes you think (no kidding, right?) but also could cause you to second guess why you’re going through this whole ordeal in the first place.

Everyone has their reasons for WLS, and I’m not in the business of trying to preach right and wrong- I think if you’re willing to make and stick with the huge life changes in exchange for a healthier you, that’s fantastic!  But for those who are interested in what the psychology exam is like, read on…

I’ll start with my usual caveat of “everyone’s experience is different”.  What I share is what happened to me- your experience could be different, but perhaps mine will shed some light and/or comfort if you’re having any stress about this portion of your testing.  When you’re getting this appointment set up, I’d suggest asking your surgeon if (s)he has a preferred psychiatrist they’d recommend for you.  Mine had one who worked directly from his office and specialized in evaluating candidates for WLS.  Granted, I had to pay out of pocket for my appointment with her (around $150), but to me it was worth it for those connections, and to eliminate the possibility of being assigned a random shrink by my insurance company who had no real interest in what I was doing or why.

My time with her consisted of first completing a “bubble sheet” test of questions about:

1.      Body Image- What was the underlying reason why I wanted WLS?
2.      Surgery Knowledge- Was I aware of what all was going to happen to me and the lifelong implications of these changes?
3.      Expectations- What was I thinking I was going to get from this surgery as far as results or general life changes?

4.      “The Darker Side”- I mean no disrespect with that tag, but a portion of the questions did focus on delving into potential darknesses of the psyche.  I was asked if I ever had suicidal thoughts, if I was ever addicted to anything, if I was often sad or lonely…questions that really could be easily manipulated to answer as you think (s)he would want you to answer.  However, I would strongly advise being 100% honest, no matter how difficult it is.  The psychiatrist is there to help, not to judge.  And being on antidepressants or anxiety medication isn’t a doomsday proposition.  It merely indicates that you may need extra support and encouragement while you take your WLS journey.

Once the paper portion was completed, she took a look at my answers and held a very pleasant dialogue with me predominantly about my reasoning for weight loss surgery.  My reasons were completely health related- perhaps 20 years ago they would have been more vanity driven, but in my lifetime I’ve become extremely realistic, and my motivation stems from wanting to see the word “Resolved” next to the Diabetes Mellitus tag on my medical chart.  “Bikini Ready” just isn’t important to me, and besides… this belly hasn’t seen the sunshine since I was a toddler anyhow, why start now?

All in all, the psych exam was easy and pleasant to experience (albeit rather long… around 2 hours).  I can’t answer for how long it would be for you to hear back whether or not you “passed”, but the psychiatrist I worked with smiled warmly and said she felt I was quite stable and an excellent candidate for WLS surgery at the end of our conversation.  Whew J

When you’re ready to schedule and complete your psychological exam portion, I wish you the very best, and that you sail through with flying colors!  Want to talk or have questions?  You can always reach me at:  Until next time, my friends, stay the course- you’ll be glad you did!