Generally speaking, patients who experience stress associated with severe but limited flare-ups are able to manage without medication or psychiatric consultation. But, if you are experiencing significant symptoms related to anxiety or depression, it’s very important to see your doctor (who may refer you to another mental health professional) or begin treating you on their own.
Your doctor may suggest clinical treatment to help you cope with your illness such as medication to help treat anxiety or depression. They may prescribe anti-anxiety medication for a brief period, or anti-depressant medication for severe symptoms of depression or for managing chronic pain.
Medications to treat psychological conditions will likely not improve the outcome of your IBD. But, they will likely improve your ability to cope, which will have an overall positive impact. Medications to control inflammation may still be required. Generally, medications used for treating mental health will not interfere with medications for IBD.
If you and your doctor decide an antidepressant may be best, your doctor will consider possible side effects, your health history, your age, other medications your take, and other factors (such as being pregnant or breastfeeding) before choosing an antidepressant.
There are different types of antidepressants that work to change the chemicals in the brain. These chemicals are called neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine have an important effect on mood. Antidepressants such as SSRIs, SNRIs, and others, focus on specific neurotransmitters.
Antidepressant treatments haven’t been studied as much in patients with IBD and more research is needed. But, some research shows antidepressants are effective in improving symptoms of anxiety and depression, improving the disease course because of their anti-inflammatory properties, and improving some aspects of quality of life.