The Psychological Impact of IBD

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Today I am blogging about the psychological impact of IBD

Why did I pick this topic? Well quite frankly my timeline is full of posts about the fatigue, the pain, the ulcers and all the horrendous physical aliments we have to suffer with. Yet there is very little about the rest of it:  With UC and crohn’s disease anxiety, worry, guilt, loneliness and  despair– all of the emotions that IBD causes us on a regular basis.  It seemed even more relevant to post this since I’m in flare-territory an am currently feeling all of the above. For me, the psychological impact is just as important as the physical one.

First up let’s talk anxiety.A recent study found that people with crohn’s were twice as likely to suffer with anxiety.At first this might not make surprise reading since it’s natural to be anxious about health problems. Yet, the link goes deeper than this. For one gut bacteria is proven to boost your mood and it’s often found that people who have anxiety/depression, have some gut bacteria issues too. Secondly, the gut is responsible for the production of Vitamin B12. Many IBDers are deficient in this since our guts don’t work well enough to produce it. And what’s  a classic symptom of B12 deficiency? Anxiety and depression.

 

Although taking a Vitamin B supplement can certainly help, it’s certainly not the complete answer. We’ve discussed anxiety but what about worry? Do you ever worry when you’re ill and also worry when you’re actually healthy and happy? IBD is an everchanging disease that even when we’re in remission we can’t help but wonder: ‘what next?’ After all, we often find ourselves whooping with joy at feeling better and then out of nowhere it strikes: the dreaded flare. 

Indeed the erratic nature of immune disease means the logical and rationale amongst us search desperately for patterns, threads, links anything to find a reason or logic for this at times baffling disease. What has caused it? Why now? What did I do differently? What didn’t I do? Was it the medicine/stress/food I ate? Can I prevent this?

I must admit that lack of control is something I find the hardest. Yet I can’t control this disease at and it’s scary. Sure, I do my absolute best with diet and even If I’m flaring, I know I’m still doing what I can to help my body recover. But it’s hard not to turn inwards and start to feel guilt.

We absolutely should not feel guilty about our role in IBD but many of us do. Of course it’s all a vicious cycle. The more we stress about this disease, the more likely we are trigger it. Yet I hope this post has illustrated the many mixed emotions that us IBDers are dealing with on a daily basis. I have already blogged briefly about CBT but strongly believe that mental wellbeing should be part of IBD patients care plan.

Our doctors spend so much time prescribing us vitamins, immune suppressants,painkillers and antibiotics but perhaps a little time needs to be spent on just asking us how we’re coping? Or begin prescribing books and even CBT sessions. Initial sessions after being diagnosed can lead the patient overwhelmed with information and a variety of leaflets thrust into our hands about the disease. But where’s the leaflet that tells us how to cope with these emotions? The leaflet that gives us ways of not breaking and staying strong? The leaflet that offers support groups and websites ? The leaflet that helps us explain this to our loved ones? We’re left to do that ourselves. As the medical community often stresses: IBD patients look well on the outside but we don’t know what is happening on the inside. Perhaps this line of thought needs to extend beyond our guts and to our minds.

You can read all my latest blogs on IBD here 

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14 Comments

  1. December 2, 2015 / 5:25 pm

    Hi Jenna,
    I’ve JUST started a blog about UC and have already written reams of stuff about mental health which I haven’t quite managed to format in a way to publish yet! But I’m working on it. Clearly there’s a massive link between being diagnosed with a chronic, unpredictable illness, and what your brain can do about it! My hospital don’t have any psychological services so I got referred for CBT through my GP, but now I’m mid-way through my sessions I sort-of feel as though they’re only dealing with half the problem. I’m devising coping strategies to deal with anxiety (particularly emergency toilet anxiety!) but feel like I’m still struggling with dealing with flares as they first start, particularly. It’s very difficult to be rational when you first see blood after a period of remission. All I can think about is whether or not we’ll be able to get it under control, and what it’s going to take to do that. More hospital visits, more medication, and the whole uncertainty of it. It’s more low mood than anxiety at those times, and I do think that being referred to a therapist at that point would be incredibly useful. I got signed off work by the hospital a few weeks ago because I wasn’t coping, and now that I’ve had a while to deal with the symptoms I’m definitely feeling better equipped to deal with them.

  2. December 17, 2015 / 4:40 am

    I’ve recently found your blog and I so appreciate your positive attitude and approach. I’ve had Crohn’s for 31 years and have had every emotion involved in chronic illness. I have a “one day” rule. I can have a pity party for One Day and then I’m done with that. IBD sucks and it’s OK to wallow but you better get back to livin’ the next day. Even if that just means taking a shower, brushing your teeth, and getting dressed for the day. That’s worked for me and kept me moving forward. When asked about living with Crohn’s I say that it has touched every single part of my life. I also say that it has NEVER kept me from doing something I’ve wanted to do. It may not be the timeline I had planned but you absolutely can live a full, happy and meaningful life with IBD. I look forward to hearing more from you.

    • Healthyglobetrotting
      December 17, 2015 / 7:18 pm

      Thanks Jeanette, I’m so glad you enjoyed reading the post!

    • Healthyglobetrotting
      January 2, 2016 / 9:07 pm

      Thank you so much, positivity is so important and I hope I can still be like you in years to come!

  3. Anne
    January 3, 2016 / 8:13 pm

    I’ve been diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease three years ago and I’m still trying to find the right balance every day. Now, I’m lucky that I have a pretty physically mild form of the disease, but I do really suffer from the psychological aspects named above. These psychological aspect are actually my only symptoms right now, but as you said, your doctor doesn’t listen to it because it’s not physical. I hope some day doctors wil start caring more about those issues instead of shoving some more pills down our throats.

    • Healthyglobetrotting
      January 3, 2016 / 9:10 pm

      I completely agree with you Anne! For me the psychological impact is way more than he physical! Take care and you can always email me if you need someone to chat to! jfarmer@abalancedbelly.co.uk

  4. January 3, 2016 / 8:52 pm

    I didn’t know depression was linked to Vit B12 deficiency. After 2 years of weekly vit b12 I’m feeling much better physically but also emotionally. Thanks for your article.

    • Healthyglobetrotting
      January 3, 2016 / 9:12 pm

      yes, it is- interesting isn’t it. I am glad you are feeling better xx

  5. Andy
    January 3, 2016 / 11:57 pm

    Can this anxiety and worry be linked to IBS and can the worry of it make it worse?

    • Healthyglobetrotting
      January 4, 2016 / 8:41 pm

      anxiety can definitely make symptoms worse too and it’s definitely linked to IBS. But I always advice people to relevant tests to confirm they definitely have Ibs!

  6. Heather Hayes
    June 9, 2016 / 12:49 am

    I am living with UC after a formal diagnosis in 2014. I had been so sick for so long before they FINALLY found it. But by that time, my colon was so full of ulcers that it took over a year to heal. After taking three years ayaw from my career as a school counselor because of my illness, I was finally able to go back to work and just finished this school year. I admit it was a struggle to have the energy to work full time and some nights I came home and passed out on the couch.when I returned to work, the very first thing I did was purchase disability insurance incase I flare again and cannot work. It’s hard to live life with the “what if” in your mind. I must say that I would not wish this disease on anyone but I am very glad to read forums such as to to know I am not alone.

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