Having a chronic health condition such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can contribute to poor mental health because of the impact it can have on your daily life. People living with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis are more likely to have depression or other mental health problems than the general population.1,2
You may have a lot of physical symptoms with inflammatory bowel disease, but it is important to ensure you also look after your mental well-being.
Good mental health is not just the absence of mental disorders. It is defined as a state of well-being in which you can:
Good mental health is a critical component of health and a means for us to connect with others, function in the best way and enjoy life. It goes beyond simply not having a mental health condition.
Living with long-term conditions such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis can cause you to experience a range of emotions, from worry and sadness to anger and frustration. These feelings are all normal and it is natural to feel like you may be struggling to cope. It is important that you give yourself space to accept your feelings and understand that they will not last forever.
For some people, negative feelings can be overwhelming and make managing your condition more difficult.
You are more likely to experience mental health problems at specific times such as:
Depression is a clinical condition that goes beyond just ‘being sad’. Possible signs and symptoms are:4,5
Symptoms are very individual and can be complex. They can impact your performance at work, your relationships, and your quality of life.5
Being diagnosed with and living with IBD can be very challenging. You may notice an impact on your mental health immediately following diagnosis, during a flare, after surgery, or living with ongoing ‘invisible’ symptoms such as fatigue or pain.1
Some medications may cause depressive side effects – for example, steroids can cause extreme mood swings.1,6
If you are suffering pain and disability because of your IBD, you are more likely to become depressed, which in turn can make your symptoms worse and trigger a relapse.1
Coming to terms with your IBD can take some time, and it is very normal to go through a period of adjustment as you acclimatise to your new way of living.
You can explore Living Well to find out more about how to continue as normally as possible and how you can keep yourself well:
A problem shared is a problem halved. Whether it’s loved ones who want to know how you’re feeling or professionals who have the skills and expertise to work through your emotions, talking to people can be an excellent way to get both emotional and practical support.
However, many people with IBD, particularly those who have been recently diagnosed, struggle to talk about their condition. In Talking about your IBD, you can find resources to help you get started, and information about what support family and friends can give you.
It can be easy to prioritise your physical symptoms, but it's always important to remember that coping with a long-term condition can have a big impact on your mental health too.
But you are not alone. Crohn’s & Colitis UK supports patients living with IBD and if you’d like to talk, you can use their confidential Helpline Service.
Their team can provide up-to-date, evidence-based information across a range of subjects, including your mental health, to help you:
You may also want to join the Crohn’s & Colitis UK Forum. This closed-group community on Facebook is for everyone affected by Crohn's or colitis. You can share your experiences and receive support from others.
Visit Crohn’s & Colitis UK Helpline service for more information.
If you have thoughts of suicide or harming yourself, tell someone you trust, call the NHS on 111 or go to your nearest A&E.
It can be difficult to start a conversation about your personal feelings with your GP – someone you may not know – and it can be especially hard when you’re not feeling yourself. But it’s a good first step to getting the support and treatment that might help you.
Here are some things to consider:
*IBDrelief patient survey data from 167 respondents with IBD in the UK.3
© NICE 2009 Depression in adults with a chronic physical health problem: recognition and management. Available from https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg91/chapter/Context. All rights reserved. Subject to Notice of rights. NICE guidance is prepared for the National Health Service in England. All NICE guidance is subject to regular review and may be updated or withdrawn. NICE accepts no responsibility for the use of its content in this product/publication.