According to the National Institute of Mental Health, people with chronic illness — which includes inflammatory bowel disease — are at an increased risk for depression. While it is common to have temporary bouts of sadness, it is important to take a closer look if sadness or other depression symptoms last longer than a couple of weeks.
If you are feeling sad, irritable, anxious, hopeless, empty, or worthless for an extended period, these are all signs that you need to speak with your physician soon. Note if you have lost pleasure in things you usually enjoy, have more fatigue than normal, or have trouble concentrating or sleeping. This is not an exhaustive list, so speak with your doctor about any symptoms that are out of the norm for you.
According to the Mayo Clinic, some additional risk factors for depression that may apply to healthy individuals, not just those with chronic illness, include: traumatic events, blood relatives with a history of mental illness, a history of other mental health disorders, abuse of alcohol or drugs, and certain medications. Talk to your doctor about your medications if you feel they may be contributing to depression symptoms. People who are “lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, or having variations in the development of genital organs that aren’t clearly male or female (intersex) in an unsupportive situation” may also be at a greater risk for depression, according to the Mayo Clinic. If you have a chronic illness in addition to these risk factors, and are exhibiting depression symptoms, it may be a good idea to talk with your doctor.
The good news is that depression is treatable — even if you have another chronic illness. The first step in getting help is talking with your physician. Medications, counseling approaches, or a combination of both, can be helpful in dealing with depression.
If you are already in treatment, or haven’t yet sought treatment, there are some small ways you can help stay positive while living with depression. Be sure to get some outdoor exercise, or any exercise, if your condition allows. Journal your thoughts, do not isolate yourself from your friends and family, and find a good support system. That support system might be here on HealthCentral, or through a group meeting specifically for inflammatory bowel disease.
Remember, there will be good days and bad days, but you can get through this and our community is here to help!
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Jennifer Rackley is a nutritionist and mother of three girls. Two of her children have dealt with acid reflux disease, food allergies, migraines, and asthma. She has a Bachelor of Science in dietetics from Harding University and has done graduate work in public health and nutrition through Eastern Kentucky University. In addition to writing for HealthCentral, she does patient consults and serves on the Board of Directors for the Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association.