Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Depression and Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Understandably, any chronic illness can trigger depression. Nobody wants to deal with the pain, the medications, the doctor visits and/or hospital stays, the everyday struggles, or the uncertainty of what comes next. Having a chronic illness can take a toll on a person both physically and mentally.

When it comes to Inflammatory Bowel Disease, there is an increased risk of anxiety disorders and depression in people who have IBD compared to those who don’t. Now this makes sense right? There is the anxiety of having to know where a bathroom is at all times or when the next flare is going to kick in. In terms of depression, there is so much to deal with when it comes to IBD in your personal and professional life that sometimes it just becomes too much. So what can you do if you have IBD and are feeling depressed?

1. Seek professional help – I know this is something that a lot of people don’t feel comfortable doing, but it really can help. Currently, I counsel people who have a range of digestive disorders and a lot of them tell me that just venting to someone who understands what they are going through helps them to feel better. Seeing a therapist doesn’t mean that you will automatically be put on more medication to treat your depression. Most of the time, talking about your depression with your therapist and jointly coming up with strategies to help you feel better is enough.
2. Join a support group, either in person or online – As I mentioned above, talking with others going through similar situations as you can be a life saver. It really helps to know you are not alone.
3. Get out of the house – Sitting at home thinking about your illness is not going to help you to feel better. Getting out of the house, even if only for a short period of time each day will help to distract you from your sadness. Take up a hobby, something that makes you happy, to keep you distracted.
4. Surround yourself with loved ones – Being alone when you are feeling depressed is only going to make things worse. Family and friends are there to support you. Talk to them about ways they can help, whether it be helping with small chores, making you laugh, or not talking about your illness at all!
5. Remember that you are not always going to feel this way – When you are living with any chronic illness, some days are going to be worse than others. But your symptoms will improve, given time and treatment. It’s important not to get stuck in a rut of negative thinking. Instead, when you are feeling down, think of some of the things you would like to do when you start feeling better. Having ideas of positive things you want to accomplish will give you something to look forward to.

Remember, as hard as it is, it’s important to stay positive when you are feeling down. A negative outlook is only going to exacerbate your symptoms and make it harder for you to get well.


  1. I think anyone who has to spend his life worrying all the baths must be willing to too.Running that John is not only something that can be shrugged ..

  2. Hi Jennifer,

    I found your blog because I have just been diagnosed with IBD and in this difficult time of trying to figure out what treatment is going to work for me, I am very much in need of sources of emotional support. I just wanted to say that I admire your attitude and hope to draw strength from it. I look forward to following your future writings on the subject and hope that all is well with you!

  3. Thanks Amanda! Emotional support is definitely important with a diagnosis such as IBD, especially from those who have been through it themselves. I would definitely suggest checking out an IBD support group if any are offered in your area. It can help tremendously. Feel free to email me if you have any personal questions. Best of luck!

  4. This is really unknown disease for me. People with chronic illnesses are at risk of developing depression.