What is stress?

Stress is a common reaction to life’s challenges. It’s the body’s way of responding to a threat (or perceived threat) or a trigger. Stress can be positive, for example, stress that motivates you to meet a deadline, or it can be negative. Stress usually goes away when the stressors disappear. 

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Causes of stress in IBD

In people with IBD, there may be many causes of stress including:

  • A loss of control over bowel habits

  • Fatigue

  • Body image

  • Social isolation

  • The ability to reach full potential

  • Feeling dirty

  • Unpredictability of the disease

Unpredictability is an inevitable but understandable cause of stress - flares are part of the disease..

There is some evidence that stress is associated with a higher risk of relapse in IBD. But, there is no evidence that stress contributes to the cause of IBD.

There is evidence of a bidirectional relationship between perceived stress and IBD-like symptoms, but not between perceived stress and intestinal or gut inflammation.

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Symptoms of stress

Cognitive and psychological symptoms of stress can include:

  • Worry

  • Forgetfulness

  • Feelings of being overwhelmed

Physical symptoms of stress can include:

  • Feeling light headed

  • High blood pressure

  • Chest pain

  • Skin rashes

  • Loss of sleep

  • Sweaty palms

  • Getting sick frequently

Everyone experiences periods of stress, but when stress no longer feels manageable and symptoms interfere with social, occupational, and other areas of functioning, it’s time to seek help. 

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