Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis tied to anxiety and depression

By: Dr. Victor Marchione | Mental Health | Tuesday, January 05, 2016 - 02:00 PM

link between crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis and depression, anxiety
Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis – both gastrointestinal diseases – have been tied to anxiety and depression. In a previous study researchers found that not only is Crohn’s disease tied to depression but that depression can increase inflammatory flare-ups related to Crohn’s.

The study involved 3,150 Crohn’s patients who completed online questionnaires in regards to their disease, treatment and its affect on their daily lives. Patients were also asked how often they felt sad, hopeless, or worthless.

Patients with high depressions scores were 50 percent more likely to experience a Crohn’s flare-up after 12 months compared to those with the lowest depression scores.

Even after researchers adjusted for other factors depression still remained to be linked with Crohn’s flare-ups.

Lead author Lawrence Gaines said, “Our study suggests that feelings of sadness and thoughts of helplessness, hopelessness and worthlessness can affect the risk of disease flares in people with Crohn’s disease. For these patients, what they think about themselves may be related to a very real medical outcome.”

The researchers note the importance of doctors talking to their patients about depression and depression-like symptoms as it could have a negative impact on the patient’s disease and overall health.

Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis increases anxiety disorder risk

Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitisAnother study found that Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis could increase the risk of anxiety disorders. Lead author of the study, Esme Fuller-Thomson, said, “Patients with IBD face substantial chronic physical problems associated with the disease. The additional burden of anxiety disorders makes life much more challenging so this ‘double jeopardy’ must be addressed.”

For the study researchers looked at 269 Canadian adults diagnosed with inflammatory bowel diseases. The researchers found that those diagnosed with inflammatory bowel diseases were two times more likely to experience generalized anxiety disorder at some point in their lives compared to adults without a diagnosis of Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. Furthermore, the risk was seen to be four times higher in women compared to men.

Study co-author, Joanne Sulman, added, “The study draws attention to the need for routine screening and targeted interventions for anxiety disorders. Particularly among the most vulnerable patients with IBD: women, individuals who are in chronic pain, and those with a history of childhood sexual abuse.”

Assistant professor Patrick McGowan concluded, “We sometimes think of the two as if they are entirely separate entities but the reality is they are intimately linked. Both involve genuine physical changes in the body and affect each other.”

Reasons for depression in Crohn’s disease

Reasons for depression in Crohn’s diseaseThere are many reasons as to why a patient living with Crohn’s disease would experience depression. Here is a list of possible reasons to feel depressed when living with Crohn’s disease.

  • It’s a chronic condition – often people may experience depression with a chronic condition because they know it is life-long and something that they will have to live with. There is no cure for Crohn’s disease and the disease greatly impacts a person’s daily life which can limit their abilities. For these reasons it can contribute to depression.
  • Crohn’s disease is physically challenging – Crohn’s disease is unpredictable and so for one moment you may feel okay and the next you’re experiencing a flare-up out of your control. The physical toll of Crohn’s disease can be challenging to deal with and so it can cause a person to feel depressed.
  • It affects your personal life – when a flare-up occurs you may be home-ridden as you cannot leave your home due to pain or frequent trips to the bathroom. This can cause strain to relationships and even your daily life. You may be unable to go out and be with friends or even attend work due to the symptoms associated with Crohn’s disease.

If you’re living with Crohn’s disease and begin to feel or experience the follow symptoms you may be developing depression and should speak with your doctor in order to treat it in order to not worsen Crohn’s.

  • Loss of appetite
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Enduring fatigue
  • Trouble concentrating or memory problems
  • Loss of interest in former pleasurable things
  • Persistent anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Feeling of guilt
  • Feeling helpless, hopeless, useless or worthless

Treat depression along with Crohn’s disease

treat depressionExperiencing or living with depression along with Crohn’s disease can lead to further or worsened flare-ups which creates a vicious cycle of making you physically and mentally feel worse. It’s important then to not only treat and manage Crohn’s disease but depression as well. Here are some tips to better treat depression along with Crohn’s disease.

  • Talk to a professional – don’t be afraid to ask for help either with your doctor or a therapist. They will better know how to treat both Crohn’s and depression in order to help you feel better.
  • Do positive things for yourself – take up a hobby, start meditating, exercise, just try anything which you enjoy doing and that is positive for yourself which can be uplifting to your mood.
  • Try antidepressants – for some people taking antidepressants may be a solution in order to better treat depression. Antidepressants should only be used when advised by a health professional and if lifestyle changes were unsuccessful.
  • Create goals or things to look forward to that you can plan for to keep you motivated and positive.
  • Create a healthier, more positive emotional outlook – this cannot occur overnight but taking gradual steps to improve your emotional outlook may help with depression.
  • Strive to participate – although you may feel that you are house bound set goals and push yourself to strive to participate in activities you once did instead of falling victim to the disease.

Study finds prevalence of mental disorders including depression in ulcerative colitis patients

IN an alternative study it would found that there is a high prevalence of mental disorders, including depression, among those suffering from ulcerative colitis patients. The link between inflammation and mood disorders was found to play a role in the findings. The study found that those suffering from inflammatory diseases had an increased risk of mood disorders by 62 percent.

If you’re living with an inflammatory bowel disease, whether that be Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, it’s important to not only manage the disease itself but to take care of your mental well-being as well. If you experience any of the above listed symptoms reach out to loved ones or health professionals in order to seek treatment.

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