Maybe you have just been diagnosed with IBD, know someone affected by the disease, or it could be that you have struggled with the disease for years. In any case, you probably know that besides cramps, inflammation and other symptoms, IBD has another invisible side: the disease not only impacts the intestine, it can impact mental health too.
The latest research by a medical research team in Australia shows that around one in five patients develops anxiety disorders, and one out of six struggles with depression. In their research, they found that the main reasons for this are the ways that the disease impacts the daily lives of the patients and how society perceives IBD.
The routine of someone with IBD has a different rhythm that those who do not suffer it. Maybe they have cancelled long-standing plans due to a sudden flare-up, need to rush to a bathroom in the midst of a meeting, or feel constantly worn out. Planning for all this takes a lot of energy. You have to take into account cancellation fees for all your trips or locate bathrooms as you walk through the offices of a client you are visiting. And as stress can trigger flares, managing it is also important.
While some of these impacts are also found in other chronic diseases, IBD shows its own peculiarities. When looking into the psychological aspects of IBD, these researchers at Uppsala University found that kids and adolescents with IBD suffer other pressures that other young patients with chronic diseases don’t. Children with diabetes, for example, may experience many difficulties in their daily lives. But after their initial difficulties after being diagnose, they realize that the disease is accepted sociable and experience no shame. But most of the symptoms of IBD are more often socially embarrassing, making it difficult for the patients to discuss their disease in an open manner. In their study, the researchers reported that most of the interviewed children remarked that they were not regarded as ill by their peers, and even in the family circle, they seldom spoke of the illness.
Balancing so many aspects can feel overwhelming. Anxiety starts to build over, leading to mental disorders. If you are reading this and have ever felt unable to talk about the disease with the people around you, or felt overwhelmed planning around IBD, please seek medical help. You do not have to wait until anxiety blows over.
To avoid reaching this point, a good way to deal with this in advance is talking openly about your needs. To make it easier, the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation has prepared a quick speech about what IBD is, how it impacts the daily life and what the needs are that can really help. And if someone you know gets diagnosed with IBD, help them talk openly about it. Offer your support and ask about how you can alleviate their day to day.
Having these conversations is not always easy. Talking about gas, bloating, diarrhoea… can make people uncomfortable. Many people affected by IBD report feeling shame and guilt around their disease. Shame about having to go to the bathroom regularly or having gases. Guilt about how their condition might affect their loved ones… IBD can stir many difficult emotions, so being able to speak about them openly and without feeling judged is important. Having an open conversation with their family and being supported by their doctors can have a huge impact on how patients perceive and manage their condition.
If you are suffering from IBD and feel anxious or depressed, please tell your doctor and seek help. You do not have to deal with it on your own.