Editor’s note: In this series, “Crohn’s Disease Health,” Mary Horsley writes about mental and physical health in relation to IBD, and how unreliable it can be. In the last of three columns, she focuses on the mental health nature of Crohn’s disease. Find part one here and part marytwo here.
It’s more than frustrating making and breaking plans, and it is never fun to miss out. Trust that we chronic illness warriors want to keep our plans with you. Everyone I know with a chronic illness struggles with making plans for fear of having to cancel them and let others down.
Sometimes, we can’t avoid it. Sometimes, we have to give in and listen to our bodies, because no one knows it better than we do.
Beyond the belly and bathroom, Crohn’s disease and IBD can affect your entire body, inside and out. The physical problems patients suffer often happen without warning and they can easily change your plans immediately. See my “Beyond the Bathroom” series and my “Crohn’s Complications” series.
Along with each physical problem, IBD not only takes a toll on your body, but also it takes a toll on your mental health.
From not being able to do things or participate with friends to being invited to events and spending that time worrying, IBD can affect mental health as much as physical health.
After a new IBD diagnosis, or even years into a treatment, struggling with your own physical health and living with an unpredictable chronic illness can affect mental health.
Stress, anxiety, depression, PTSD, hypervigilance, cognition response decline: Each can come because of IBD and each patient’s personal struggle with it.
With each invasive procedure and each “accident,” the mental health aspect of IBD is tested. With each medication change and flare up, these multi-systemic diseases affect more than just the digestive system, but the mental, social and psychological well-being of patients.
With IBD, a state of hypervigilance can become the norm, as you not only notice things more readily about your symptoms and body, but also you’ll likely to be unable to take your attention from it.
And while hypervigilance can be seen as normal in certain situations, it’s not healthy for the body or mind to spend too long in a hypervigilant state of worry, putting many patients at risk for PTSD.
IBD and the effects on patient mental health can disrupt sleep, or cause a lack of it. IBD can lead to and cause avoidance behaviors, health unreliability and it can make you antsy as well as anxious. Being on high alert and worrying all the time can be more than exhausting.
This disease can make you irritable or prone to outbursts, feelings of guilt or blame at times, it can make you spend your time alone and it shelters you from those who just don’t understand, let alone how traumatized one can get in this life-long process.
Panic attacks are definitely possible and reliving the embarrassing moments can lead to fears for the future.
I also happen to suffer on the inside with anxiety, depression and my own mental health. My diagnosis had placed me in a negative state for a long time, something I still struggle with today on my bad days. I was depressed about things I could not change, so much so that I began seeing a therapist to help my mental health and I began sharing my journey through my own personal blog.
I and other Crohn’s and colitis warriors are on constant alert with fear and anxiety for our bowels and our bodies. I still get scared for accidents and anxious for finding the right medications. I will be forever worrying about another abscess or painful surgery, worried for inflammation or worried about waking up again during a scope. My emotional well-being has easily been through just as much as my physical health with my own Crohn’s diagnosis.
I cannot offer medical advice, I can only share what I know from my personal experiences. Remember, my Crohn’s disease is individual for me, and what works for me may not necessarily work for you.
For me, It Could Be Worse. (Cover photo credit goes to my friend and photographer Tim Goins)
Note: IBD News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of IBD News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to IBD.