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The Connection Between IBS and Mental Health

What is a mood disorder?

According to MentalHealth.gov, mood disorders are affective disorders that may involve the following feelings:1

  • Feeling sad all the time
  • Losing interest in important parts of life
  • Fluctuating between extreme happiness and extreme sadness

The most common mood disorders are:1

  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
  • Self-harm

Depression is likely the most common mood disorder among people with IBS. Depression can interfere with everyday life and the feelings do not go away. Some symptoms of depression include:2

  • Sadness
  • Change in weight
  • Difficulty sleeping or oversleeping
  • Loss of energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Depression is a serious medical illness. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of depression, please seek medical or psychiatric help to improve your mental health.

How common are mood disorders in people with IBS?

Psychiatric disorders have been associated with the development of IBS. In particular, people with mood disorders have a higher likelihood of developing functional gastrointestinal disorders with more severe symptoms, lower health-related quality of life, and higher chance of recurring symptoms following treatment. Mood disorders are present in up to 66% of patients with IBS.3 People with a lifetime diagnosis of IBS are also more likely to report a lifetime diagnosis of a mood disorder.4

Several different studies have shown the presence of depression in all IBS subtypes. However, depression may be more prevalent in people with constipation predominant IBS or mixed IBS.5

Why is there a connection between IBS and mood disorders?

The reason for the relationship between IBS and psychiatric disorders is not clearly understood.6 To date, there is no evidence to support a genetic connection between Major Depressive Disorder and IBS.4 It is believed that people with IBS have personality traits that affect the way they perceive and become distressed by bodily issues, which results in depression. Interestingly, people with depression who suffer from IBS are more likely to be vocal about their symptoms and seek medical help for their IBS, as opposed to people who are depressed but experiencing IBS related symptoms.6

Written by: Truc Thanh | Last reviewed: June 2016.
  1. MentalHealth.gov. Mood disorders. http://www.mentalhealth.gov/what-to-look-for/mood-disorders/. Accessed February 22, 2016.
  2. MentalHealth.gov. Depression. http://www.mentalhealth.gov/what-to-look-for/mood-disorders/depression/index.html. Accessed February 22, 2016.
  3. Sayuk GS, Gyawali CP. Irritable bowel syndrome: modern concepts and management options. Am J Med. 2015;128:817-827.
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  5. Mykletun A, Jacka F, Williams L, et al. Prevalence of mood and anxiety disorder in self reported irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). An epidemiological population based study of women. BMC Gastroenterology. 2010;10:88.
  6. Jamali R, Jamali A, Poorrahnama M, et al. Evaluation of health related quality of life in irritable bowel syndrome patients. Health and Quality of Life Outcomes. 2012;10:12.
  7. Tosic-Golubovic S, Miljkovic S, Nagorni A, et al. Irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety, depression, and personality characteristics. Psychiatria Danubina. 2010;22:418-424.