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Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Managing the emotional and social aspects of IBD

Adjusting to an IBD diagnosis

Being diagnosed with a disease like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) may cause changes to your everyday life. The changes you may have to make depend on the severity of your disease and how it progresses.

Some common lifestyle changes include:​

  • modifying your work or school schedule to accommodate appointments and symptoms
  • keeping track of your symptoms in a journal or app
  • adjusting your diet
  • making sure you have access to a washroom when you leave the house (apps like GoHere can help with this)
  • changing your physical activity routines

Being diagnosed with IBD can be physically overwhelming. If you are struggling with the symptoms of your disease, talk to your healthcare team. They can discuss symptom management options with you and give you advice on what to do. It may take time to get your symptoms under control. Once you do, you will likely be able to continue with the activities and hobbies that you enjoy. Many successful athletes, artists, and professionals live with IBD.

Being diagnosed with IBD can also be emotionally overwhelming. It is important to take care of your mental health when you are first diagnosed with IBD. It is also important to build a strong support system to support you with your diagnosis.

Mental health and wellness

Research has shown that changes in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract can lead to changes in the brain and that changes in the brain can lead to changes in the GI tract. This relationship is called the gut-brain connection. For people with IBD, the links between the GI tract and the brain mean that your mood and mental health are very important to your ability to be well and feel well.

Stress and anxiety are important to monitor. Both of these feelings can trigger IBD symptoms. If you are having trouble managing your stress or anxiety, your disease may become worse. The gut-brain connection also means that if you are in a flare or have bad symptoms, you may find yourself feeling stressed, anxious, or sad. This combination of poor physical health and poor mental health can impact your quality of life and worsen disease outcomes. Although it can be hard, it is important to do your best to build strong coping skills​ so you can handle these tough times more effectively.

Some common coping techniques that people with IBD use are:

  • making plans so you feel prepared to go out
  • focusing on the parts of your disease and life that you can control
  • working on improving your problem-solving skills
  • building a support system of people who can help you

There are also therapies that may be able to help you handle your anxiety, stress, or depression, including:

  • mindfulness therapies, like mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), that focus on building your mindfulness, meditation, and relaxation skills
  • cognitive psychotherapies, like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), that focus on helping you stop negative thoughts by reframing your beliefs and attitudes and modifying your behaviour
  • other psychotherapies, like acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), that focus on accepting negative thoughts and moving towards positive thoughts and actions

You can do these therapies with a mental health professional or you can use websites and apps based on the principles of these therapies.

Learn more about:

If you need more support, information, or a referral, call the mental health helpline at 1-877-303-2642 any time, day or night, to talk with a mental health care professional.

Social support

IBD can have an impact on your social life, including your ability to participate in activities, how you connect with friends and family, and your approach to relationships. This social impact can be challenging, so it is important to surround yourself with people who you feel are supportive of your IBD journey.

Discussing your IBD with your friends, family, or partner may be hard because of how complex the disease is and the personal nature of the symptoms. There are many resources that might be helpful when explaining your IBD to someone:

If your child has IBD, find information at:

There is also information available for teachers to support a student’s journey with IBD and for anyone trying to support someone with IBD.

Having IBD can feel isolating at times. Many people with IBD find it helpful to connect with other people who have IBD. Connecting with others with IBD can help you feel heard and can help reduce some of the stress of the unknown. Organizations such as Crohn’s and Colitis Canada offer opportunities to connect with peers. They have many in-person and virtual peer support events that you can attend. They also have provincial chapters, including the Crohn’s and Colitis Alberta chapter​. This provincial chapter hosts events and meetings where people with IBD can give support and get support.

You may also find support in online groups or forums. Online support groups allow people from all over the world to support each other. Some online support groups may be aimed at offering support to people with IBD from specific communities, such as athletes, young adults, or students. Support groups may also exist for different ethnic or cultural communities. Online support groups have many benefits, but not every online support group may be safe, truthful, or helpful. Look for groups that:

  • are moderated or regulated and have rules
  • were started by medical experts or advocacy organizations
  • are monitored by medical experts or advocacy organizations
  • are available to verified users or accounts only
  • hold members accountable and remove harmful or untrue information​​​

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