Children With Family History of IBS More Likely to Have Mental Illness

A study in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition has found that children with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and/or a family history of IBS are more likely to have mental health disorders.1 Just over 250 children were involved in the study at the Department of Pediatric Gastroenterology at the Children's Hospital of Michigan. Thirty percent had family histories of IBS, while the remaining 70 percent did not. Researchers found no major differences between the 2 groups in many categories, including:

The study showed that kids with family histories of IBS were more likely to have anxiety or depression.1 They were also more likely to receive counseling and antidepressant drugs.1

IBS in children

People of all ages have IBS, including children. Young kids can have IBS as well as older ones. About 10 to 15 percent of older kids and teens have IBS.2 Once your child has an IBS diagnosis, it helps to explain that there is no reason to be afraid. The IBS is not a symptom of any other disease, and they are not in danger.2

Supporting a child with mental illness

The gut and brain are closely connected. Distress in 1 area can trigger distress in the other.3 Offering support to a child struggling with stress, depression, or anxiety can improve not only their mental health but their IBS symptoms as well. The following tips are recommended by the National Association of School Psychologists:4

Create a sense of belonging

When children feel welcome and connected, they develop trust and a sense of self. Strong positive relationships can promote mental wellness.4

Promote resilience

Being resilient can help a child overcome challenges and develop good mental health. Resilience can develop through helping others and successfully facing challenges.4

Develop competencies

Children need to know that they can accomplish their goals. Getting good grades and developing talents and interests helps kids feel competent. This, in turn, helps them deal with stress better.4

Ensure a positive, safe environment

Feeling safe is crucial for a child’s mental health. Promote positive behavior like showing respect, responsibility, and kindness.4

Teach and reinforce good behaviors and decision-making

Good social skills, conflict resolution, and problem-solving support good mental health. Provide positive feedback to validate your child’s achievements.4

Encourage helping others

It is valuable for kids to know that they can make a difference. Helping others can build self-esteem and reinforce personal responsibility. It also makes children feel good about themselves!4

Encourage good physical health

Exercise and good physical health support good mental health. Eating healthy, regular exercise, and getting enough sleep can protect kids against stress. Exercise can also decrease anxiety, anger, and depression.4

Educate others about symptoms and solutions for mental health problems

Information can help break down the stigma surrounding mental health. Make sure that your friends, family, and teachers know how best to help.4

Know your mental health professionals

Build relationships with community and school mental health resources. This way you know who to call when you need them.4

Establish a crisis response plan

A crisis response plan can safeguard a child’s physical and mental well-being. Create a crisis response team in case your child ever has an emergency. The team can include school administration and security as well as mental health professionals.4

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