Coping with the Emotional Side of Crohn’s: Part 1

When people think of Crohn’s, they usually picture frequent trips to the bathroom, severe stomach pain, and extreme fatigue. The physical symptoms are the defining characteristics of this disease. As a result, Crohn’s is thought of as an illness that only affects the body. With symptoms that are undeniably painful and debilitating, it's nearly impossible to look past the physical manifestations. However, there is another very important aspect of Crohn’s that is often overlooked; the emotional impact.

Emotional Response to Crohn’s

Crohn’s is an incredibly draining disease, both mentally and physically. Not only does Crohn's attack the body, it also poisons the mind. It beats you down until there’s nothing left but hopelessness and emptiness. It convinces you to always expect the worst and keeps you trapped in a world tinted by pessimism. After a while, it’s easy to find yourself in a state of depression. If you ask me, I can see why. Besides dealing with embarrassing symptoms and painful flare-ups, having Crohn’s prevents you from living a normal life. It interferes with your ability to plan ahead, restricts your social interactions, diminishes your self-worth, and robs you of your sense of independence. This constant suffering takes a huge toll on your mental health and emotional state and can easily leave you in the grips of depression.

Normal Emotions or Depression

Depression, a serious mood disorder, can be difficult to notice at first, especially for those living with a chronic illness. When you’re suffering from Crohn’s, it’s not uncommon to have moments (who am I kidding? Days, weeks, months) of anger, sadness, and hopelessness. These feelings are a completely normal emotional response to the suffering you’ve endured. However, if these feelings persist for a sustained period of time, typically lasting longer than a few weeks to a few months, it can be a sign that they are more than just normal emotions and could be depression. If this is the case, it’s important to do something about it before too long. When left untreated, depression can become severe and can exacerbate other Crohn’s symptoms. For this reason, it’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of depression so you can step in when necessary and be proactive in managing your illness.

Know the Signs and Symptoms of Depression:

  • Feeling “empty” or emotionless
  • Feelings of sadness, anger, guilt
  • Feelings of restlessness, irritability, anxiety
  • Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, worthlessness
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering, brain fog
  • Lack of energy, extreme fatigue, feeling like you’re in “slow motion”
  • Change in appetite (overeating, loss of appetite), weight loss/gain
  • Poor sleeping habits (insomnia, early-morning waking, oversleeping)
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that once brought enjoyment

You may have noticed that depression shares many of the same symptoms as Crohn’s. This overlap can make it difficult to distinguish the cause of the symptoms, which can make treatment a little complicated. As a result, many Crohn’s patients suffer in silence, assuming the feelings they’re having are just part of living with Crohn’s. Don’t let this happen to you. If you find yourself experiencing these symptoms, do not ignore them. There are things that can be done to help.

If this sounds all too familiar and you think you may be suffering from depression, read part 2 to learn about ways to improve your mental health.

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