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Crohn’s Disease May Cause Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Crohn's disease may cause post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a new study contends. This doesn't surprise me. For many people, the diagnosis of Crohn's comes after some serious medical event that finally brings attention to the condition -- but this event is often preceded by months or years of medical problems that are misdiagnosed and often even considered to be psychosomatic.

In my own case, I remember being confused by a doctor visit when I first started high school. The doctor asked me if I had kissed anyone and I had no idea why a doctor would ask that or what it had to do with my health. I now realize that it was suspected that I had mono (Mononucleosis) -- which is a common Crohn's disease misdiagnosis. Throughout high school various stressors would give me stomache pains so bad that I would double over in pain - this was considered psychosomatic. A decade later I was having fevers all the time (I must catch colds easily) and diarrhea all the time (I'm too "high strung"). After about five years of living with that, I finally was diagnosed with Crohn's -- after an emergency visit to a gastroenterologist for an endoscopy because I was vomiting up blood.

Nearly everyone I talk to with Crohn's has a similar "war story" -- often years of being blamed for their "psychosomatic" condition, followed by a traumatic life-threatening experience, followed by being told that they have a serious illness for which there is no cure (which is nice vindication for the psychosomatic stuff, unfortunately at the cost of knowing that they have an incurable disease).

PTSD is typically triggered by violence, natural disasters and emergency situations. But a growing body of research shows that serious illness, along with diagnostic and treatment procedures, may trigger the psychological condition.

Over a long period of time, PTSD can permanently change the body's hormonal and immune responses, making a person more prone to serious health problems, the researchers said.

This is one of those very Crohn's-type problems in which your Crohn's makes other things in your life worse -- and then those other things being worse adds additional stressors to your life that makes your Crohn's worse.

PTSD can cause problems like

  • Flashbacks, or feeling like the event is happening again
  • Trouble sleeping or nightmares
  • Feeling alone
  • Angry outbursts
  • Feeling worried, guilty or sad

Many of those above problems can also be created by one of the primary quick-fix treatments for Crohn's disease: prednisone.

Prednisone does some major screwing with your mind (I'd guess from it throwing various hormones out of balance) and when it starts making you emotionally feel bad it can be very bad.

Crohn's does enough to make you feel socially isolated all by itself. So adding PTSD on top of it can seem like more of the same, however, PTSD is treatable and worth addressing since relieving some of these symptoms may make everything else seem a lot more bearable. Human beings need social support in order to function and PTSD impedes that.

Study Suggests Link Between Crohn's Disease and PTSD

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Defined

What Can I Do If I Think I Have PTSD?

For completeness (though this could be a book-length topic to discuss) -- remember that Crohn's can cause nutrient deficiencies that can unbalance you and prednisone can play havoc with your hormone levels. Try to find a doctor who will take an interest in addressing these issues.

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