Managing Crohn’s disease can mean dealing with anxiety, stress, and even depression. In honour of Bell Let's Talk Day, here are some ways to better control the emotional roller coaster of Crohn’s.
Managing the symptoms of Crohn’s disease can take an emotional toll on your health — and it may even lead to depression – as it did for me. Taking control of your illness can help alleviate anxiety and stress and ward off the feelings of depression.
The Link Between Stress and Crohn’s Disease
When you have a chronic illness like Crohn’s, it’s important to address the emotional and physical symptoms. In fact, stress may actually worsen your condition, triggering abdominal pain, diarrhea, and more. For me, stress is my number one trigger. Food may cause me pain or discomfort, but stress sends me into a black hole that I have a hard time getting out of.
While stress doesn’t cause Crohn’s, it has been shown to aggravate or trigger symptoms. One study of 478 adults with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) found that stress is correlated with Crohn’s symptoms, but not with clinical evidence of inflammation. The research appeared in the July 2015 issue of The American Journal of Gastroenterology.
Managing Your Emotions With Crohn’s Disease
Remember that you’re not alone. More than 250,000 people in Canada are living with either Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, says Crohn’s & Colitis Canada.
Learn about your illness. Knowing the facts about your disease — for example, being aware of possible complications and being armed with information to manage flares and treat Crohn’s symptoms — can make you feel more in control of your illness. The more knowledge you have about your disease, the more it can reduce your stress.
Don’t stop your treatment. Many people stop taking their medicantions when they feel well – I was that person. When you relapse, it is that much harder to get back into remission.
Plan ahead. Being prepared, such as having an emergency change of clothes, carrying a slim pack of wipes, and knowing where bathrooms are when you travel somewhere new, can go a long way toward easing anxiety.
Expect emotional turbulence. It’s not uncommon for people with Crohn’s to feel stress and anxiety. There can be some depression and mood swings due to medications and the ever change in our bodies. The important thing is not to let your stress get out of control. Prepare for the unexpected and try to take it in stride. Practicing a stress-management technique, like meditation or deep breathing, may help you regain control. For me it was meditation, writing, and listening to music.
Treat the depression. Being proactive can help you handle any depression symptoms:
Lifestyle changes like exercise may help, I know it did for me. But don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor about this. Seeking professional counseling, or discussing antidepressant medications, may help you along the way. Speaking to someone outside of my bubble really helped handle my mood swings and constant “sadness”.
Find a Crohn’s support group. Some people may isolate themselves when they have Crohn’s disease. It’s so much better to share your experience and realize that it’s not uncommon to feel stress and any other feeling you may have. While it’s important to depend on your friends and family, there may be times when you want to talk to other people living with the condition. That’s when joining a Crohn’s support group can be very useful. They can provide information and support, as well as an outlet to vent your feelings. You can attend support groups in person or join an online group through Facebook. I’ve made several friendships through local Facebook groups. Friendships that I value so dearly, because these are people who actually GET IT.
Start a journal. Take time — once a day, once a week, or whenever you have a spare moment — to write down your thoughts. Letting out your feelings in a notebook or journal can be very helpful. You can also use this journal to recognize how different stressors in your life affect your Crohn’s symptoms. I found through writing, that my depression was brought on by guilt. Guilt caused by being, what I felt was, a shitty mom, an angry wife, and an inadequate friend.
While managing stress won’t guarantee that you’re flare-free - it can help you better manage the emotional burdens of your condition.
Never think you’re alone. I can’t stress that enough. There are so many communities online that are going through similar, if not, exactly what you’re going through.
Although I am clinical remission with my Crohn’s Disease, I am far from being passed my depression. I have learned to deal with it and handle it. I fight everyday to beat it. I know you can too.
Stigma can often prevent those struggling with a mental illness from seeking the help they need. Developed in partnership with Dr. Heather Stuart, the Bell Canada Mental Health and Anti-stigma Research Chair at Queen's University, here are 5 simple ways to help end the stigma and initiate a conversation. Bell Let’s Talk Day works towards ending the stigma of mental health conditions, giving suffers the freedom and strength to get help.
If you find you need help, or someone to talk to, please visit one of these; https://letstalk.bell.ca/en/get-help
Today, let’s talk!
For every applicable text, mobile and long distance call, tweet using #BellLetsTalk, Bell Let’s Talk Day video view on social media, use of the Bell Let’s Talk Facebook frame or Snapchat filter, Bell will donate 5¢ to Canadian mental health initiatives. Let’s work together to create a stigma-free Canada!