Crohn’s and Stress

Quincy AdamCrohns Learn

Crohn's pain
While there is no proof that stress causes Crohn’s, there is no doubt that living with Crohn’s is stressful – emotionally and physically. For most people, the most stressful part of living with Crohn’s is dealing with the unpredictable and embarrassing symptoms and the discomfort.

But there are also emotional issues when living with Crohn’s. The unpredictability of flare-ups, changes in body image, or missing out on activities – all can lead to a full gamut of emotions ranging from anger, resentment, frustration, embarrassment, fear and guilt, to depression. And these feelings can also create more stress.

Whatever the emotion, know that it’s real and shouldn’t be discounted or dismissed by others or yourself. Dealing with the negative emotions will help you to feel more positive emotions. Go ahead and ask for support from friends, family or professionals. Having trusted people you can turn to for encouragement and support will help boost your resilience in tough times.

Remember, you are not alone. According to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, there are more than 700,000 people living with Crohn’s in the U.S.1 There are people who understand exactly what you are going through and want to help, including patient forums, patient advocacy groups and local support groups.

  • You did not do anything to cause your condition. Your disease is not a fault of your personality or lack of emotional control, or your lifestyle.2

Coping with Stress

The best way to cope with your symptoms and their impact on your life is to have an effective treatment plan. And there are things you can do to help manage your daily life with Crohn’s, most of which begin with you adjusting your expectations of yourself through understanding your condition.

  •  Learn everything about your condition and how it affects your life. As the saying goes, information is power – power for you to better understand your symptoms, triggers, diet, treatment options and ways other people have successfully managed life with Crohn’s.
  • Take control of Crohn’s. You may feel helpless and a “victim” of bad luck, but getting actively involved in your disease management and treatment plan can help you make better decisions about lifestyle management and treatment options and may help you feel less depressed.
  • Educate others in your life. Discussing your symptoms and how it affects your life and your activities may seem uncomfortable or embarrassing, but explaining them and discussing how it affects you with your family friends, and others with whom you work, live or engage in social activities can help them be more understanding and supportive and help you feel less stressed.
  • Create a strong support network. Communicate your needs and your feelings. If friends and family cannot provide support, there are professionals and patient support groups who can.
  • Try to stay hopeful and involved in life. While withdrawing from people may seem inevitable, it will only make you feel more isolated and depressed. Staying connected to others makes you feel “normal”.
  • Try to maintain a healthy lifestyle – in diet and exercise. Physical activity reduces stress and may help you feel better. For tips on the best exercises and diet for Crohn’s, check out these articles: Living with IBD and Need Exercise Tips?, and Soothing Foods for Crohn’s Flare-ups, and Crohn’s Diet Plan.
  • Consider yoga or meditation to help manage stress: Exercise Tips for Living with IBD.
  • Don’t be hard on yourself. It is okay to have days when you feel ill and “just not up to it” and okay to want your privacy and boundaries.

For more information about living with Crohn’s:
1 Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation. Daily Life with Crohn’s Disease.
2 Chris Iliades, M.D. Everyday health. Tips for dealing with Crohn’s Difficult Moments.
3 Crohn’s & me. Dealing with Your Emotions: the Crohn’s Rollercoaster.