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Depression and IBS

Depression and IBS

Anxiety, worry, nerves and IBS. I think we are all familiar with this topic. I’ve talked a lot about it because the two seem to go hand in hand like peaches and cream, mashed potatoes and gravy, cigarettes and coffee…oops, not IBS-friendly, then again I’m thinking the mashed potatoes and gravy thing wasn’t very good either.;) The relation between IBS and anxiety is of particular interest to many of us because often we wonder which came first the chicken or the egg? Did my anxiety cause my IBS…does anxiety CAUSE IBS? Some people think so…I do, but I’m not a doctor. Nevertheless, while anxiety gets a lot of attention, I don’t think that depression gets enough airtime. I don’t mean having the blues for a couple of days, being sad or down. I’m talking the kind of depression that renders you incapable of doing many of the things you need to do to have a productive, healthy life. With something as painful and frustrating as IBS, depression is always a possibility, especially if you have been dealing with your IBS for some time.

Depression is nothing to ‘wait out’

If you’ve never experienced a true depressive episode, I hope that you never do. I have on several occasions and it is not something that I would wish on anyone.  You are not yourself. Your are sad beyond sad, tired, listless, you isolate; you shut down. The real trouble is starting yourself back up again. When you are experiencing the symptoms of true depression it becomes an extraordinarily vicious cycle. How are you supposed to go the gym, prepare meals, go grocery shopping or do any of the things you need to care for yourself when you can barely get out of bed? The reason this topic can be very much related to IBS is the frustration and anxiety factor. After periods of extreme discomfort and worry, your self-esteem tends to take a nosedive, leaving you feeling hopeless. Hopelessness is the root of depression. When you see no light at the end of the tunnel, no end to your suffering, the result is often depression. I have mentioned before about my extreme anxiety issues and bi-polar disorder. While bi-polar disorder can lead you into periods of depression you tend to fluctuate between two types of moods (I’m not going to go into the many details of bi-polar disorder in this article). My point is that while without medication, I live with almost non-stop anxiety and worry, yet I don’t get depressed for very long periods of time. Do you want to know when I get clinically depressed? After long periods of worrying all the time. When will it end? Can it stop? I feel like I’m doing everything, yet nothing seems to work. I WANT TO GIVE UP. When you get to ‘I WANT TO GIVE UP,’ there’s a pretty good chance you’re depressed. Depression is nothing to ‘wait out.’ Once you are down there, you need help. Trust me, I know.

Get help

See your doctor, talk to your friends and family (even if you have to force it)…bring other people in to help. It may be as simple as an anti-depressant or as serious as a hospital stay depending on your past history with depression, but take action, make the phone call. Living in a state of depression and anxiety while having your body attacked by IBS is not something that will have a happy ending. If you’re not sure you are truly depressed (in the clinical sense) call the doctor anyway. Good chance if you are questioning it, you probably are. Please don’t take this lightly.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • DorisE
    1 year ago

    I could not attend my Mother’s, nephew’s or brother’s funerals in UK because of IBS-D. Yes, have anxiety too (some depression)…. therapist said, oh, use Depends; Imodium for the trip. Are you kidding me? For one thing, Depends do not work for six bouts of runny smelly diarrhea – want to sit next to someone on a plane for seven hours who has pooped themselves? Yes Imodium does work, but when and where is often not dependable, if you will excuse the pun. I am now taking Imodium melts – started off one worked for a day or two, now am up to three. Not enough space for my full story, nor other people I suppose. Had radiation treatment to pelvis 1985, so did spouse in 2013. For some reason, they say his radiation caused the daily five bouts of diarrhea, whereas mine is supposed to be IBS??? Whether IBS or depression/anxiety came first or not: hope to Heaven someone somewhere will be able to help us before we leave this earth!!! Seriously, I wish I could have a fecal transplant TOMORROW… would try ANYTHING to have a reasonably normal life as I am almost housebound, poor diet, etc. Yes I feel sorry for myself and for others who are ill 🙁 Sorry but its just one of those days! p.s. History of medications including antibiotics – don’t think that helped the situation! Hugs to all

  • JudyStaed
    1 year ago

    I am deeply touched by all the articles I read on here. How I feel the pain…the anxiety and, yes, at times the depression. With me I am always in two fields. I either have terrible constipation or flip over to the other field and have loose bowels which I can never predict. In my case the stress in life leads to anxiety and that worsens my IBS. However, once the IBS is worse my anxiety accelerates. From anxiety and the daily suffering I come to the depression. Thankfully, as I always say…with each day comes dawn and with that dawn things might be better than the day before. I think I would add another component here. My anxiety and depression lead to fear. I am afraid to plan any social event. I am afraid to make any appointments. Yes, we people with IBS do tend to isolate ourselves. I think one of the hardest things for me is the feeling that I’m all alone in this…that I’m misunderstood. To my point I think in my case the feelings of being misunderstood lead to just feeling so alone and that in turn leads to depression. My message to any of you who battle this beast of a condition is that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. There are people like me who truly understand your battles, your fears, your anxiety, and your depression.

  • DorisE
    12 months ago

    Thats a nice comment… Strange that I do not know one other person in my small circle of friends, family, neighbours, who have IBS D ….. they look at me oddly when I say I have IBS, TMJ, etc. Sharing feelings with others here does help, in that I or we know all too well how it feels and dont have to prove we are unwell. Sadly my spouse now has diarrhea every day due to radiation damage… not IBS, and he handles stress etc. fairly well..but I can see the change in him since he has been dealing with this…. having depression as well as bowel issues is, as you say, very hard to deal with.

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