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.
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