Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Psycho-Emotional Distress

Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Psycho-Emotional Distress | UPMC Italy

Chronic inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, affect about 250,000 people in Italy, with an estimated incidence of 10-15 new cases per year per 100,000 inhabitants (Source: Acquire-IBD survey). These conditions cause often painful physical symptoms and generate considerable psycho-emotional distress on both a personal and social level.

In addition to the characteristic symptoms of MICI, such as abdominal pain, fatigue, diarrhea and unmotivated weight loss, patients may also experience an increase in emotional symptoms, including:

  • Anxiety.
  • Depression.
  • Low self-esteem and dissatisfaction with body image.
  • Social isolation.

Behavioral health problems in patients with MICI

MICI patients may experience high levels of stress, anxiety and depression due to the unpredictable nature of disease flare-ups, ongoing medical treatment and the possibility of life-changing surgery. This emotional strain can affect various aspects of daily life, including:

  • The frequency of bathroom visits.
  • Dietary restrictions.
  • Fatigue.
  • The desire to avoid social activities.

Absence from work or school due to symptoms or treatment can further strain finances and increase stress. MICI-related emotional challenges can also manifest themselves through:

  • Changes in appetite and weight.
  • Difficulties in adhering to treatment.
  • Sleep problems.

Furthermore, gut health can influence behavioral health through the brain-gut connection. This bi-directional communication system between the brain and the gastrointestinal system can be altered in people with MICI, affecting the perception of gut sensations and enhancing emotional distress, which in turn can aggravate the physical symptoms of MICI.

Behavioral health treatment options

It is essential to address any behavioral health problems early on through an individualised approach, which may include various treatment options. These include drug therapies, psychotherapy, mindfulness practices and other individualised strategies. Such interventions, integrated with nutritional guidance and exercise programmes, can significantly contribute to mitigating stress, anxiety and other emotional symptoms associated with chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

A multidisciplinary approach to treatment

It is crucial to adopt a multidisciplinary approach in the treatment of chronic inflammatory bowel disease in order to effectively manage both physical and emotional symptoms, which can have a significant impact on patients' personal and relational lives.

This approach begins with the clinical gastroenterological diagnosis and treatment, and is complemented with customised nutritional treatment plans and appropriate psychological support.

By turning to the experienced specialists at UPMC Salvator Mundi International Hospital, patients can receive comprehensive care, including:

This integrated approach ensures that patients receive the support they need to cope not only with the physical aspects of the disease, but also with the behavioral and emotional aspects that are closely linked to the disease itself.