Stress and Mental Health Disorders

Stress and IBD

Stress may change the microbiota (the bacteria, fungi, viruses) and sensitivity of nerves in your gut. Some researchers believe this can increase symtoms like pain, bloating, discomfort, and decreased in appetite.

Stress can also affect gut motility, which is the movement of contents through your intestine and bowels. This can lead to an increase in diarrhea or constipation. 

Medications that act on the central nervous system (CNS), such as tricyclic antidepressants and selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), may also improve changes in the gut that are associated with stress.

Visit the next section on Mental Health to learn more about stress and ways to manage. 

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Anxiety and depression in IBD

People living with Crohn's or colitis are more likely to experience anxiety and depression. Feelings of anxiety and clinical depression occur in IBD when the disease is active (60% to 80% of patients), as well as during remission (up to 30% of patients).

Anxiety and depression can negatively impact a person's quality of life, interfere with their ability to perform daily activities like work and school, and increases their risk of having a disability. 

In people with IBD, a history of having surgery, disease complications, cigarette smoking, and being of female gender are associated with having anxiety and depression. 

Major depression (clinical depression) is a type of depression so pronounced and peristent that it affects normal functioning. A diagnosis of depression can be made if symptoms are present every day for at least two weeks. If untreated, depression can last for months or longer.

People with depression feel sad and blue, and they also feel some of the following symptoms:

  • Feeling out of control

  • Unpredictable, uncontrolled tearfulness

  • Feelings of sadness, melancholy, weary anger, guilt, apathy, or general despair

  • An overwhelming sense of worthlessness

  • Forgetfulness, difficulty making decisions, or inability to concentrate

  • Sleep disturbances

  • A change in eating habits, such as lack of appetite or excessive appetite

  • A total loss of sexual energy

  • Withdrawal from partner, friends, and family

  • A feeling that you might harm yourself or your loved ones

  • Sometimes: a suicidal feeling.

Early diagnosis and treatment are very important. If you experience any of the symptoms of depression, see your doctor right away. The treatment of depression may include medication, exercise, psychotherapy, and education.

Visit the next section on Mental Health to learn more about anxiety and depression in IBD, including treatments and managements strategies. 

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Ways to help you manage

Non-pharmacological interventions such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), mindfulness, breathing techniques, exercise, and other behaviour or lifestyle change strategies may help to reduce stress, anxiety and depression. 

Digital applications and online tools can also be helpful. Here are some suggestions from our experts: 

  • Moodgym helps you to learn and practice skills to prevent and manage symptoms of depression and anxiety.
  • Headspace offers information about meditation and how it can help with stress, anxiety, and other issues.
  • provides 100+ guided meditations covering anxiety, focus, stress, sleep, relationships, and more.

Visit the next section on Mental Health for more strategies and treatments that help to manage stress, anxiety and depression. 

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