IBD & Depression
If you have IBD, you know how taxing it can be, not only physically but also emotionally. It’s no surprise given the symptoms IBDers live with on a daily basis- painful cramps, diarrhea, weight loss, loss of appetite, and nausea. Living with these can wear you down and eventually, you might find that you have fallen into a bout of depression.
According to the World Federation for Mental Health,
“Quite often, physical and mental health disorders go hand in hand. Research shows that persons with severe or chronic physical illnesses often have a co-existing mental health problem.”
Depression is a very common illness, affecting approximately 1 in every 10 adults. According to WebMD,
“The risk of getting depression is generally 10-25 percent for women and 5-12 percent for men. However, those with chronic illnesses face a much higher risk — between 25-33 percent.“
According to CCFA, symptoms of depression include:
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
- Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, including sex
- Decreased energy, fatigue, being “slowed down”
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
- Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
- Appetite and/or weight loss or overeating and weight gain
- Restlessness, irritability
In 2008, a Canadian study showed that there is a link between IBD and depression. According to a Reuters article on the study,when compared with the general population, IBD patients had higher incidences of panic, generalized anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorders, as well as major depression. Additionally, the study showed that IBD patients were less likely to suffer from social anxiety or bipolar disorder.
I can attest to depression and IBD as Dan suffers from bouts of it. Like me, Dan likes to be in control of his life. However, when his disease is acting up, he feels worthless and angry. He gets frustrated by normally simple tasks and annoyed by things that usually don’t bother him. Sadly, this is all a side effect of his disease.
While I do not have IBD, I have suffered from depression and anxiety on and off over the past decade. The most important thing that I have done is seek treatment for my depression and anxiety in the form of therapy (specifically cognitive behavioral therapy) and medication. The right balance between the two has helped me to feel significantly better.
If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, talk to your doctor. According to CCFA,
“Sometimes the physical symptoms of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) — gastric distress, fatigue and decreased energy — can also be symptoms of depression. It is important to seek out a counselor who has experience in treating people who suffer from chronic illness, especially if you can locate a therapist in your area who has treated other people with IBD, so much the better.”
There are many things that can be done to help treat the depression but most importantly, you should talk to a professional- they can recommend a therapist, support group, and/or medication (if needed).
CCFA has some great tips for coping with depression, including:
- Set realistic goals in light of the depression and assume a reasonable amount of responsibility.
- Break large tasks into small ones, set some priorities, and complete as many tasks as you can
- Try to be with other people and to confide in someone; it is usually better than being alone and secretive
- Participate in activities that may make you feel better.
- Mild exercise, going to a movie, a ballgame, or participating in religious, social, or other activities may help.
- Expect your mood to improve gradually, not immediately. Feeling better takes time.
- It is advisable to postpone important decisions until the depression has lifted. Before deciding to make a significant transition — change jobs, get married or divorced — discuss it with others who know you well and have a more objective view of your situation.
- Let your family and friends help you.
If your depression symptoms become too hard to handle and you are having thoughts of hurting yourself, go to your local emergency room or call 1-800-SUICIDE or 1-800-273-TALK.
If properly treated, depression gets better day by day. Positive thoughts will begin to replace your negative thoughts and over time, the negative thoughts will dissipate.
Staying mentally healthy is just as important as being physically healthy when treating IBD. Make sure you seek out the appropriate treatment for you if you are feeling depressed.