When treating inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), taking care of your mental wellness is just as important as managing physical symptoms. Coping with the unpredictability, pain, and discomfort of ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease actually triggers stress, anxiety, and depression — things that can make symptoms worse. In fact, a study published in the journal Inflammatory Bowel Diseases in May 2022 found that nearly one-third of people with an IBD report symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Those patients are less likely to be in remission and are more likely to be in and out of their doctors’ office.

Working with a psychologist or a mental health professional who specializes in digestive disorders can help manage the emotional side of life with an IBD. A therapist can assess you for trauma symptoms and also walk you through techniques that keep stress levels moderate and decide if medication could help.

“The role of a psychologist can be vast, with a patient who has an IBD and may be going through the grief process as they adjust to the overwhelming feelings of dealing with a chronic condition,” says Megan Riehl, PsyD, a gastrointestinal psychologist at the University of Michigan Health in Ann Arbor.

Dr. Riehl pointed out that stress does not cause IBD, but it can worsen symptoms, including pain, diarrhea, and frequent flare-ups, and make it more difficult to move toward remission.


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