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Let’s Talk About the Tough Stuff: IBD and Mental Health – Part 2

**This post discusses topics of mental health and suicide that some may find too uncomfortable to read.**

In part 1 of this 2 part series I talked about suicide and depression and shared with you some of my own experiences of having Crohn’s disease and going through the “tough stuff.”

In this post I wanted to talk about ways you can get help if your mental health is suffering because of IBD. First of all, I hope that by sharing some of my experiences with you it will encourage you to feel more comfortable opening up about your struggles and seeking help if you need it. There is nothing to feel shame about when it comes to this stuff. Chronic illness is a difficult thing to live with. Like really, really difficult! It would be odd if you were to go through all this and NOT be affected. So consider yourself a normal human if you have a chronic illness and your mental health has been affected by it at some point.

About Mental Health and IBD

For a long time there were very few studies that looked into the relationship between mental health and inflammatory bowel disease. Before that having Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis was treated like it was a psychiatric illness and patients were isolated and separated from their families as part of their treatment. Thankfully that was a long time ago!

In the past decade or so there have been important studies examining the relationship between IBD and mental health. Here are some things to know about it: There is evidence that depression and anxiety is more common in patients who have IBD compared to the general public. Depression and anxiety seem to become more severe when disease activity increases and with the use of corticosteroids. Many patients with Crohn’s or colitis report having an impaired health-related quality of life. Depression and anxiety can affect how a patient perceives their disease and may also lead to worsened disease outcomes. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a promising treatment to help individuals with IBD who have depression and anxiety.

Things That Can Help Your Mental Health

1. Meet Other Patients

This one might sound silly to some of you but I know for a fact that meeting other patients helps improve mental health for many patients. In fact this was the thing that has helped me the most when it comes to my mental health. I think it’s so important to meet others that I co-founded Gut Over Here which hosts patient meet-ups whenever and wherever we can. There is something about being in the presence of other patients and talking with them that really helps. One thing that really helped me was getting involved with Camp Oasis by volunteering to be a counselor.

2. See A Chronic Illness Counselor

Did you know that there are professionals trained to treat the mental health of people living with chronic illnesses? Some are even specifically trained to treat patients who have inflammatory bowel disease. The hospital that I am treated at has a mental health professional who works in the IBD center and is available to patients. I know that not everyone has access to that but it can’t hurt to ask your GI if they can recommend anyone. If they are not aware of anyone who treats the mental health of patients with chronic illness you may have to do a little searching on your own.

3. Medication

Most patients will not need medication to cope with a flare-up of IBD but some patients who are dealing with significant depression and anxiety may need to have it treated with medication. Talk with your doctor if you are experiencing depression or anxiety that significantly impacts your daily life.

Remember that there is nothing to be ashamed about when it comes to IBD affecting your mental health. If you have having trouble finding help call the CCFA’s IBD Help Center at 888-694-8872 who can recommend support groups in your area, doctors, and other ways to help improve your quality of life.


This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Graff, L. A., Walker, J. R., & Bernstein, C. N. (2009, July). Depression and anxiety in inflammatory bowel disease: A review of comorbidity and management. Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, 15(7), 1105-1118.
  2. Moradkhani, A., Beckman, L. J., & Tabibian, J. H. (2013). Health-related quality of life in inflammatory bowel disease: Psychosocial, clinical, socioeconomic, and demographic predictors. Journal of Crohn's and Colitis, 7(6), 467-473.
  3. Szigethy, E., Carpenter, J., Baum, E., Kenney, E., Baptista-Neto, L., Beardslee, W. R., & Demaso, D. R. (2006, February). Case Study: Longitudinal Treatment of Adolescents With Depression and Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 6(1), 68-76.
  4. Crohn's & Colitis. (2012, May 1). Retrieved September 13, 2016, from