Navigating Daily Life with IBD
Managing the physical symptoms of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis is just one part of living with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
There are several challenges of living with these chronic illnesses that can affect your daily life:
Perceived stigma of IBD
Going to work and school
Navigating social situations
Taking care of your mental and emotional health is just as important as treating your physical symptoms. If you feel you may be struggling with depression or anxiety, seek treatment from a mental health professional. You don’t have to suffer in silence.
Erasing the Stigma
It is stressful and isolating to feel like you are being treated differently because of your Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, or to be worried that others may see you differently.
We understand how negative perceptions about the physical, and often invisible, symptoms of IBD can make it hard for you to feel understood and supported. Instead, we want you to feel empowered.
Learning to talk about your disease can help combat stigma and educate your friends and family about how you manage your illness while still living your best life.
Going to Work and School
Whether you are employed or going to school (or both), it can be stressful to worry about how to manage your IBD symptoms outside of the comfort of your home.
It is possible to be successful at work or school and enjoy your time there, even as you learn to navigate your Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis in a public setting.
There are, however, times when you will need to make changes to your career plan or education if there are too many negative impacts on your physical and mental health. Some of those challenges include:
A schedule or task that is too physically demanding
Lack of schedule flexibility
Lack of support from your boss or supervisor
Too much stress
A strong support system is crucial for people with IBD. Yet living with IBD can complicate relationships with your family, friends, and significant others.
Life with IBD can be a rollercoaster of physical, emotional, social, and financial complications, and your loved ones often go along for the ride. There are several ways Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis can impact your relationships:
The ups and downs of IBD can strain relationships over time as your disease alternates between active flares and periods of remission.
Your family members and friends often become your caregivers when your disease is flaring.
When it is a child with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, siblings may also have emotional challenges as they the daily needs of the child with IBD are managed.
Some people will be supportive of your needs as you manage life with a chronic illness, while others may be less understanding.
You can build and maintain strong relationships as you manage the ups and downs of IBD. Make a point to surround yourself with positive people who care about your physical and emotional health. A strong support system will value and respect you.
Watch our video series on relationships and IBD to hear how other patients and caregivers deal with building a support system.
Navigating Social Situations
Everyone needs to get out of the house and have fun, whether it’s a night out with friends, seeing a movie in the theater, cheering on your favorite sports team, or going to a birthday party.
Socializing with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis means having to plan ahead.
Locate bathrooms at your destination and along the way.
Talk to your friends and family about what kind of support you might need when you are out.
Check out restaurant menus ahead of time to make a meal plan without feeling rushed.
How you feel about your physical appearance and how your body functions can have both a positive and negative impact on your self-esteem, your relationships, and your mental health.
Body image is something many people struggle with, but living with a chronic illness can amplify negative feelings about your body. IBD can have an overwhelming impact on how you look and how you feel, both emotionally and physically, as you deal with medication side effects, disease symptoms, nutrition changes, and surgery.
Emotional Factors (.pdf)...
Mental Health and IBD Infographic...
Employment and Inflammatory Bowel Disease...