Study finds possible link between depression, anxiety and IBD flares

Study finds possible link between depression, anxiety and IBD flares

Depression is not merely sadness. It is an overwhelming feeling of numbness. It is a disease that leaves one crippled. Depression happens to be one of the leading causes of disability in the United States.

As scientists all over the world are constantly working on the various facets of depression, a team of researchers from the University of York, England has revealed that depression and anxiety can be precursors to repetitive occurrences of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) in some patients.

In the study, titled “Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety Are Independently Associated With Clinical Recurrence of Inflammatory Bowel Disease,” the scientists conducted a prospective analysis using the Swiss IBD Cohort to bring forth a time-related picture of the links between the two psychiatric conditions and IBD.

Patients diagnosed with IBD at least four months prior to the beginning of the study were analyzed between 2006 and 2015. The analysis, published in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology in January 2016, found that seven out of 12 prospective studies had a positive correlation between associated depression and anxiety and IBD flare-ups, whereas five did not.

Dr. Mikocka-Walus and colleagues, involved in the study, ascribed the lack of consistency between the studies to differences in study designs, including observation period, sample size and selection apart from methods applied during the evaluation of anxiety, depression and IBD seriousness.

Stressing on the findings, Mikocka-Walus and colleagues told, “It thus seems prudent to recommend that screening for common mental disorders and referring for psychological/psychiatric treatment should be included in standard IBD care.”

Scientists used clinical exams to assess IBD during the enrolment phase, post which the Crohn’s Disease Activity Index and the Modified Truelove and Witts Severity Index were used. Patients were handed over a 14-question Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, the score of seven being reserved as the cutoff for anxiety and symptoms of depressive disorders.

Of 2007 participants, 56 percent had Crohn disease (CD), with the remaining suffering from ulcerative colitis (UC) or indeterminate colitis. The median age at baseline was 40.5 years, 48.3 percent of the patients were males and median disease duration was 7.2 years.

While gender was not a factor considered for the study, it was found that clinical recurrence of IBD was found sooner in patients suffering from depression and anxiety than without. The Kaplan-Meier curves observed during the study pointed out to a stronger link between depression and clinical recurrence of IBD with the passage of time as opposed to association between anxiety and recurrence.

Though the study is limited due to factors like self-assessment of anxiety and depression and the length of the time between follow-ups, the researchers suggested that those suffering from depression are less likely to keep up with their IBD-treatment plan.


The significance of the study lies in the fact that it is imperative to conduct screening of depression in patients looking for standard IBD care, though the scientists have been unable to distinguish a pathological connection between depression and anxiety.

The researchers, however, failed to point out if IBD flares were from an increased likelihood of reporting worsening gastrointestinal symptoms among individuals with impaired mood.

In a letter to the editor of Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, published in February 2016, Dr. David J. Gracie from the Leeds Gastroenterology Institute, St. James’s University Hospital, U.K., and Dr. Alexander C. Ford from the Leeds Institute of Biomedical and Clinical Sciences, University of Leeds, U.K., wrote, “Previous studies have only examined this issue using a cross-sectional design, meaning that causality cannot be established, so the findings are therefore novel and important, and provide support for the existence of brain-gut interactions, which may affect the natural history of IBD.”

Road to recovery

It is imperative to take depression seriously as it can be very damaging if left untreated. Do not wait for symptoms to grow to a level wherein the patient loses all hope to recover. If you or your loved one is dealing with depression, the Texas Depression Treatment Help can guide you to effective and medically proven techniques to deal with the problem. You may call us at 866-827-0282 or chat online for further information.