What could be the relationship between IBD and mental illness? Enjoy and tell me in the comments if you have ever struggled with mental illness and how you are doing on your journey to physical and mental health. Also, please give me ideas for my next post idk what to write about next lol. Follow me on insta @crohnsandcolitisus and donate to my very first fundraiser to UNC Medical School who are trying to find a cure for IBD on my “donate” page! Love you all! Educate. Support. Fight!
According to the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, about 30% of people with IBD also have anxiety or depression. This means that over ¼ of us in the IBD community are struggling with our mental health and, unfortunately, I am one of them who struggles with anxiety and OCD. Why could this be the case and what can we do to help? Before I share my theories, let me clarify that I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder before my Crohn’s became active. However, I was released from therapy in 7th grade, and then once I went through 6 months of 7 hospitalizations in 8th grade, I had to go back to therapy for generalized anxiety. My GAD had also evolved into compulsions, so I was diagnosed with OCD as well.
Many people have anxiety when thinking or dealing with change and unpredictability, and IBD teaches you to be afraid of the unpredictable. I remember waking up at 3 a.m. and not being able to move and my voice came out as a strained scream. It felt like someone was slicing my insides and the pain lasted for hours before I got admitted into the children’s hospital. This is only one of many examples of when my life was going just fine, and then Crohn’s came out of nowhere and slapped me in the face (or the gut haha). This taught me to always be on edge. To fear the future, the unknown. My anxiety and OCD is very similar. I have anxiety over people breaking in (mostly at night) so I constantly check locks, open and close doors, and close the blinds certain ways. In both my IBD and my anxiety, I am afraid of the unknown. Therefore, IBD may teach people to be afraid of the unknown and, therefore, develop anxiety. If fear of the unknown is why some people with IBD may have anxiety, why would they be struggling with depression?
Depression’s biggest tool is isolation, so what better way to sneak its way into a victim’s life than have an IBD sidekick? Thankfully, I have an amazing support system of family and friends, however, not everyone is so lucky. My IBD has kept me from going to so many birthday parties, dances, and events. This isolated me from my friends and made me feel so distant from everyone at times. If my mom hadn’t stayed with me in the hospital 24/7, it would have given me so much time to think about how alone I was and how sorry I was for myself. The combination of sickness and isolation could have easily turned into depression for me, so it is no surprise that IBD and depression come hand in hand sometimes.
In conclusion, about 30% IBD patients have anxiety and depression and this may be because of the unpredictability and social isolation that comes with IBD. The medical field should screen for mental illness at the time of diagnosis to get patients help sooner. As a community, we should recognize that a lot of us are struggling with mental illness and stay connected with each other and be as understanding as possible. If we stick together, we can show each other that none of us are alone and all of us have someone to lean on. If you have IBD and you feel you may be struggling with mental illness, reach out to a trusted adult or your primary care doctor to get resources. If you are ever thinking about harming yourself or others please call the national suicide prevention lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
DISCLAIMER: These are my THEORIES! You may have anxiety or depression for a completely different reason or it may not be related to your IBD at all. There are a lot of studies about how many people with IBD have mental illnesses but not many theories online to why this is, so I wanted to put some thought into it.
Educate. Support. Fight.
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She was always fighting a battle but her smile would never tell you so. ~ Nikki Rowe