Generalised Anxiety Disorder Twice as Likely in Patients With IBD

TORONTO -- July 29, 2015 -- People with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) have twice the odds of having a generalised anxiety disorder at some point in their lives when compared with peers without IBD, according to a study published online in the journal Inflammatory Bowel Diseases.

“Patients with IBD face substantial chronic physical problems associated with the disease,” said lead author Esme Fuller-Thomson, MD, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario. “The additional burden of anxiety disorders makes life much more challenging so this ‘double jeopardy’ must be addressed.”

Females with IBD were particularly vulnerable to anxiety disorders, the researchers reported. Women with IBD had 4 times the odds of anxiety when compared with men with IBD.

Data were drawn from a representative sample of more than 22,000 Canadians, the 2012 Canadian Community Health Study: Mental Health. A total of 269 respondents reported that they had been diagnosed by a health professional with Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis.

“The study draws attention to the need for routine screening and targeted interventions for anxiety disorders,” said co-author Joanne Sulman, MD, University of Toronto. “Particularly among the most vulnerable patients with IBD: women, individuals who are in chronic pain and those with a history of childhood sexual abuse.”

“Of particular interest was the 6-fold odds of anxiety disorders we found among those with IBD who had a history of childhood sexual abuse,” said Rusan Lateef, University of Toronto. “Not surprisingly, we also found that those who reported moderate or severe chronic pain had twice the odds of anxiety disorders in comparison with those with only mild or no chronic pain.”

Patrick McGowan, an assistant professor of biological sciences at the University of Toronto Scarborough, says one of the reasons this study is so significant is because it underlines the important link between physical and mental health.

Although the study was not designed to 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.
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