Crohn’s is an inflammatory bowel disease that may occur anywhere in your gastrointestinal tract. Symptoms include abdominal cramps and pain, bloating, and diarrhea. The condition is characterized by periods of remission and flare-ups.
In additional to Crohn’s-related symptoms, living with the disease may cause feelings of helplessness, isolation, and possibly lead to depression.
Rates of depression are higher in people with Crohn’s than in the general population. Scientific findings have also revealed that the severity of Crohn’s symptoms often goes hand in hand with how difficult the depression is to treat.
When it comes to Crohn’s disease and depression, there are some symptoms that overlap. Common symptoms experienced with both Crohn’s and depression are fatigue and loss of appetite.
It may be challenging to distinguish which symptoms are linked to which condition.
Some other symptoms of depression to be aware of include:
- loss of appetite and unintentional weight loss
- loss of interest in activities once found pleasurable
- persistent anxiety
- irritability or belligerence toward others
- feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, uselessness, or worthlessness
If you are experiencing any symptoms depression, see your doctor for a diagnosis. You may be referred to a mental health specialist.
It’s also important to find a therapist who is familiar with Crohn’s disease. Your gastroenterologist may be a good resource for providing referrals.
Depression and Crohn’s
Some people with chronic flare-ups may feel they have no control over their illness. This experience may lead to depression.
There are a few factors that may predict or contribute to depression in people with Crohn’s disease. There seems to be a relationship between developing depression and the severity of Crohn’s symptoms.
One theory for this connection is that people experiencing both Crohn’s symptoms and depression may have intensified feelings of isolation and helplessness.
Coping with Crohn’s may be a challenge, especially when compounded by depression.
It is common for people with Crohn’s disease to fear having flare-ups or progressively worsening symptoms. In order to relieve some anxiety, it can be helpful to have coping strategies in place.
For example, plan ahead and have a change of clothes with you when you go out. This may be a way to boost your confidence. Maintaining your social life can be an important part of working through your depression.
There are also a few other things to consider:
- It’s important to remember that you are much more than the sum of your symptoms. You always have choices, starting with how you think about and respond to your condition.
- It’s helpful to see the big picture. Acknowledge the cyclical nature of Crohn’s and realize that every flare-up is followed by a period of remission. Remind yourself that nothing lasts forever and the flare-up will eventually pass.
- When feeling your worst, think of something to look forward to. Do something nice for yourself. Simple things like dressing up, buying flowers, or enjoying a movie, can perk you up and elevate your mood.
Small changes may alter your mindset over time, giving you a healthier emotional outlook. However, if you need additional support, don’t hesitate to seek it out.
Connecting with others who have Crohn’s might be helpful in overcoming depression. It may be a real positive to know you aren’t alone in fighting this disease.
There are many support groups for Crohn’s disease that include:
- Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis Support Group on Facebook
- My Crohn’s and Colitis Team
- Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America
It’s important to know that you are not alone. There are other people out there dealing with many of the same issues that Crohn’s presents.
It might not happen overnight, but small changes may improve your mindset over time, giving you a healthier emotional outlook. However, if you find that you need additional help or support, speak with your doctor on how to find the best approach for managing your Crohn’s-related depression.