The purpose of this interpretive inquiry was to gain understanding about how women cope with the interpersonal stresses associated with bariatric surgery. In-depth interviews were conducted with 13 women who had undergone bariatric surgery. Data were analyzed using constant comparison processes. Analyses revealed that participants managed stress associated with bariatric surgery using five forms of coping, including: seeking and providing social support; opting not to disclose the fact of their surgery to others (“voluntary nondisclosure”), “screening,” reframing the problem, and educating others about bariatric surgery. Insomuch as participants adopted diverse forms of coping and fitted the form of coping to the situation at hand, their approach to tolerating the interpersonal stresses arising from their surgeries reflected “coping flexibility.” Although several of the coping strategies adopted helped participants to manage interpersonal stresses associated with bariatric surgery, others created additional stresses in their lives or left them feeling ambivalent. Findings can inform bariatric support group discussion content or individual psychological interventions with patients who are struggling to manage interpersonal stresses confronted during the bariatric journey.
Key words: bariatric surgery, coping, interpersonal stresses, women, qualitative.
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