A recent study has shown bidirectional link between inflammatory bowel disease and depression. Researchers from Keck Medicine of University of Southern California found that the patients diagnosed with IBD were nine times as likely to develop depression than the general population. Surprisingly, their siblings who did not suffer from IBD were almost two times as likely to develop depression. Conversely, they found that patients with depression were two times as likely to develop IBD and their siblings without depression were more than one and a half times as likely to develop IBD.
Explaining the two-way association between IBD and depression, they said:
Constant gastrointestinal symptoms associated with IBD can be very disruptive to patients' life, making them more prone to depression.
Increased risk of depression among siblings of IBD patients may reflect caregiver fatigue.
The gut-brain axis may explain higher risk of IBD in patients with depression.
Bing Zhang, a gastroenterologist with Keck Medicine, suggested that inflammation of the brain, which plays a role in depression, may be linked to the inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, a hallmark of inflammatory bowel disease.
Why siblings of patients with depression are also at higher risk of developing IBD? Zhang speculates that there may be a shared genetic susceptibility for either disease that presents differently in family members.
Hence, the authors concluded that both family history and the relationship between gastrointestinal and mood disorders should be considered when evaluating or treating patients with either IBD or depression.
Symptoms of IBD
Inflammatory bowel disease is a group of disorders that involve chronic inflammation of the digestive tract. While the exact cause of IBD is not known, it is believed to be the result of a weakened immune system.
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The common symptoms of IBD include persistent diarrhoea, abdominal pain, rectal bleeding/bloody stools, weight loss and fatigue.
Symptoms of depression
Depression is a mood disorder characterised by a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. According to the Mayo Clinic, common signs and symptoms of depression include:
Feelings of sadness or hopelessness
Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much
Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration even over small matters
Physical aches or pain
Reduced appetite and weight loss or increased cravings for food and weight gain
Trouble thinking, concentrating
Suicidal thinking or feelings, especially in older men
If you're feeling depressed, talk to a friend or loved one, or any health care professional. If it doesn't help, see a mental health professional as soon as you can and seek treatment.