Generalized Anxiety Disorders Twice as Likely in IBD Patients

Individuals afflicted with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), like Crohn's disease (CD) or ulcerative colitis (UC), are twice as prone to developing generalized anxiety disorder compared to those without IBD.

Individuals afflicted with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), like Crohn’s disease (CD) or ulcerative colitis (UC), are twice as prone to developing generalized anxiety disorder compared to those without IBD.

Data from the 2012 Canadian Community Health Study: Mental Health, including more than 22,000 Canadians, indicated that a total of 269 respondents had been diagnosed with CD or UC.

Researchers said this representative sample underscored the necessity for routine screening and targeted therapies for anxiety disorders.

According to Patrick McGowan, assistant professor of biological sciences, University of Toronto Scarborough, one of the primary reasons this study was important was that it highlighted the significant link between physical and mental health. McGowan said, “We sometimes think of the two as if they are entirely separate entities, but the reality is they are intimately linked. Both involve genuine physical changes in the body and affect each other.”

Furthermore, results from the study published in the journal Inflammatory Bowel Disease revealed that female IBD patients were especially susceptible to the anxiety disorders, as they had four times the probability of experiencing anxiety than male IBD patients.

Esme Fuller-Thomson, PhD, Sandra Rotman Endowed Chair, University of Toronto’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, commented, “Patients with IBD face substantial chronic physical problems associated with the disease. The additional burden of anxiety disorders makes life much more challenging so this ‘double jeopardy’ must be addressed.”

McGowan concluded that while the study wasn’t intended to specifically determine the biological mechanisms of anxiety disorders or IBD, “adverse life experiences and chronic anxiety can hijack the stress response system, potentially affecting a whole host of bodily processes, including chronic inflammation”.