Quadruple increase in weight loss surgery in the under 25’s
By Nick Watts
Figures release by the NHS this week show a near four-fold increase in the number of young people under 25 receiving weight loss surgery on the NHS. Between 2009 and 2010 a record 210 of the gastric band operations were carried out, compared to just 55 between 2006 and 2007. Of that 210, thirty four were performed on people under 19.
Twenty year old Corina Ellison has spoken out in the media this week about the lack of emotional support before and after the operation, she told BBC newsbeat about receiving her gastric bypass 6 months after she was declared “obese” by her doctor, which she puts down to emotionally binge eating, which in turn fuelled her weight gain.
She went on to tell the show how they never addressed her emotional attachment to food and despite having the surgery, is still binge eating with terrible results, she told newsbeat;
"Afterwards I'll get really ill, I'll get tired, I'll feel like I'm going to faint. I feel let down, like they've given me this operation then left me to deal with it by myself."
This is yet another example of health professionals taking a “quick fix” option and not seeing the benefits of therapeutic approaches to managing the emotional difficulties which in this case fuelled Corina’s weight gain. There are a number of approaches to the management of weight related conditions and in severe cases surgery can be warranted, but should be used as a last resort according to NHS guidelines.
Binge Eating Disorder
Corina, who describes herself as suffering from Binge Eating Disorder, is one of an unknown number of people in the UK to suffer from it. The condition has only recently been coined and is not yet diagnosable, although is likely to be included in 2013 in the most popular diagnostic publication, the DSM. At the moment sufferers are likely to be diagnosed with an “Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified” in order to receive specialist treatment.
The symptoms of Binge Eating disorder usually include eating large amounts of food in a small space of time, with a lack of feeling of control, usually due to an emotional trigger, food will usually be consumed past a level that is comfortable for the sufferer and sometimes in a secretive fashion. Sufferers will often feel very guilty or disgusted by their consumption of the food afterwards and physically the condition can cause rapid weight gain and lead to other complications as a result.
There are several approaches to the treatment of Binge Eating, include Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Interpersonal Psychotherapy, to address the behaviours and the emotions surrounding the sufferers need to binge eat. There is also the organisation, 'Overeaters Anonymous' which runs a program to help combat binge eating and to act as a support group for those suffering from the condition.
Too quick to operate?
So the debate begins, are we offering people surgery as a “quick fix” for clinicians, when we should be concentrating on the emotional support of those suffering from conditions that are psychological.
As is the same with any other eating disorder, the roots are emotional and cannot be resolved purely by medical means, the fluctuation of weight is yet another symptom of the disordered eating as opposed to the problem itself.
If clinicians do choose to operate then the question begs in regards to support, why are people not receiving it?
Too have such a life altering operation and then be left to deal with it purely on your own is not helpful and can have devastating results for the person having just had the operation. They require a multi-disciplinary approach built around nutritionists, mental health professionals and psychological support to achieve a good outcome. Until the point where this is in place, I think we can safely come to the conclusion that haphazard surgical procedures, with no after-care are a dangerous way to go.