Coping with Depression and Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Being diagnosed with a chronic illness is one of the most challenging moments of a person’s life. Facing the challenges that come with the disease may be just as difficult as finding ways to treat and manage your symptoms. For those who are diagnosed with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, it can seem that there is nothing ahead but a life of discomfort and struggle to stay on top of inflammation and other symptoms.
This feeling can grow into something as damaging and threatening than the illness itself. Depression is a condition commonly linked to inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, and should be treated as seriously as the disease itself. A person’s mental and emotional health can be the deciding factor in whether or not they are able to cope with and adjust to life with a chronic illness.
In extreme cases, depression can itself become threatening to a person’s life. For this reason, gastroenterologists are beginning to assess a person’s mental health, in addition to their physical condition. The challenges that arise as a result of depression or emotional instability may be closely tied to a person’s physical wellbeing and are now beginning to be treated as critical risk factors to a person’s health and overall survival.
The goal of every person diagnosed with IBD, as well as the goal of their supporting community, should be to find a way to cope with the disease as quickly as possible, and to then maintain a high quality of life with the chronic illness. Attitude, determination, and optimism are key factors in whether or not a person is able to achieve that goal, and unfortunately, depression makes all three nearly impossible. Luckily, depression is a treatable condition, and those who fall into it are able to come out of it stronger and more confident than ever before.
Understanding the signs of depression
Contrary to popular belief, depression is more than simply being sad or down. The condition can be the result of sustained periods of stress, sadness, or negative mood, but does not come from and is not defined by these symptoms exclusively. Depression is a mood disorder associated with a chemical imbalance in the brain, and can cause a myriad of other, more serious symptoms than sadness and negativity.
The most dangerous symptom of depression for an IBD patient is lack of motivation and loss of interest in anything. This can also be described as an “empty” mood, in which a person feels no desire to do anything or help themselves in any way. In light of IBD and other chronic illnesses, these symptoms can lead to an inability to care for oneself in the ways necessary to survive or prevent critical decline of the disease.
Other symptoms that can prove dangerous in light of IBD are decreased energy and fatigue. IBD also causes these symptoms in individuals, and it can compound into a general inability to care for oneself in critical ways. The decrease in energy also extends to concentration and focus, and many people with depression report feeling “slowed down” with an inability to remember things or make decisions.
Add serious irregularities in sleep and eating habits, and it is easy to see why depression is such a dangerous condition for those who are already struggling to manage or come to terms with a lifelong, chronic illness like IBD. For many who face depression, the burdens of everyday life can become unbearable, and as the condition progresses, it only gets harder to navigate life and find the help needed to get out of it.
Read on to learn more about depression and inflammatory bowel disease.