An Invisible Illness: The Impact of IBD on Mental Health

Mental Health & IBD: What Is The Connection?

Mental health often has a negative stigma surrounding it, and this is especially true when living with a chronic illness like Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which includes Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis. These two gastrointestinal conditions are often referred to by patients as invisible illnesses.

While counseling individuals who have IBD, I have found patients often feel alone and isolated because IBD is an “invisible disease” in the sense that you physically cannot see when someone is living with the chronic condition. Not only can this create shame in oneself, but it can cause anxiety and depression to develop, or increase negative feelings associated with poor mental health.

Think about it this way, do you feel comfortable discussing bowel habits at the dinner table? Most people would answer no. In the world of IBD, diagnosed individuals learn to be comfortable with the uncomfortable.

My aim is to provide emotional support and guidance to individuals diagnosed with IBD and to help them feel less alone through their journey. It is important to validate the feelings of loneliness impacting those living with IBD. Not only does it build an alliance between me and the patient, but it creates a sense of ease when discussing their illness.

Imagine you are in a room full of strangers and suddenly spot somebody you know, and they give you a big wave and seek you out of the crowd. This is how someone with IBD might feel when speaking to a person who really has a grasp on how much the illness impacts their life. So creating a space where discussion around this topic is accepted and comfortable is an important step.

To shed light on this invisible disease, TDDC has collaborated with Marci Reiss, DSW, LCSW, and Founder of the IBD Support Foundation, and has received generous funding from Takeda Pharmaceuticals to conduct a clinical research trial. The trial aims to develop a program that explores our patients’ psychosocial health using several validated tools. Through the trial, I offer counseling and emotional support to individuals diagnosed with IBD to help reduce the stigma surrounding this invisible disease.

Author Bio: Carrie Cole Seale, LMSW