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IBD & Depression

Signs and symptoms of depression

Most mental health experts agree that if you are experiencing five or more of these symptoms for a sustained period of longer than two weeks, you should seek an evaluation from a qualified professional:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, including sex
  • Decreased energy, fatigue, being "slowed down"
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
  • Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or weight loss or overeating and weight gain
  • Restlessness, irritability

If you do experience these symptoms, or the burdens of daily living in general become overwhelming, it is time to seek therapy. Sometimes the physical symptoms of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) — gastric distress, fatigue and decreased energy — can also be symptoms of depression. It is important to seek out a counselor who has experience in treating people who suffer from chronic illness, especially if you can locate a therapist in your area who has treated other people with IBD, so much the better.

Tips for helping yourself if you are depressed

It is important to realize that once you’re being treated for depression (counseling and/or medication), negative thinking should fade. In the meantime, here are some tips to help you cope with depression:

  • Set realistic goals in light of the depression and assume a reasonable amount of responsibility.
  • Break large tasks into small ones, set some priorities, and complete as many tasks as you can.
  • Try to be with other people and to confide in someone; it is usually better than being alone and secretive.
  • Participate in activities that may make you feel better.
  • Mild exercise, going to a movie, a ballgame, or participating in religious, social, or other activities may help.
  • Expect your mood to improve gradually, not immediately. Feeling better takes time.
  • It is advisable to postpone important decisions until the depression has lifted. Before deciding to make a significant transition — change jobs, get married or divorced — discuss it with others who know you well and have a more objective view of your situation.
  • Let your family and friends help you.

People rarely "snap out of" a depression, but they can feel a little better day-by-day. Remember, as your depression responds to treatment, positive thinking will replace the negative thinking that is part of the depression.