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Emotional Aspects of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

It’s human nature to keep certain aspects of life private — and bathroom business certainly falls into that category. But if you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), your bowel behavior is erratic and unpredictable, which means you can’t control when or where you’ll need to desperately find a restroom, and suddenly, everyone you’re with at the time is privy to your private problems.

If you find yourself feeling upset about that, you’re not alone. In fact, studies show a direct correlation between IBS and negative emotional/mental symptoms. Dr. Ayub Hussain at Northside Gastroenterology Associates in Cypress and Houston, Texas, understands this connection and also knows that your psychological symptoms can exacerbate your physical ones and trigger an ongoing cycle of pain and distress.

To break the cycle, Dr. Hussain offers sound advice based on years of experience treating gastrointestinal disorders, including IBS. Nutritional changes can be extremely effective in reducing your physical pain and bowel issues, and medication can address your severe symptoms. But Dr. Hussain also wants you to be aware of the toll IBS takes on your mental health as well. Here are some of the emotional effects of IBS.

Is IBS changing my personality? 

It might be. Although not everyone experiences psychological symptoms related to IBS, if you do, it’s important to be aware of what’s happening between your brain and your gut so you can manage your condition effectively. Here’s a look at some of the most common emotional disorders linked to IBS.


When you live with IBS, you’re constantly on guard, never knowing when an attack will occur. This heightened stress leads to generalized anxiety disorder in about 60% of IBS sufferers. The more you worry about your health and the potential embarrassment of an episode while dining at your favorite restaurant or meeting friends for coffee, the more susceptible you are to anxiety. In turn, anxiety leads to stomach aches, muscle pain, dizziness, and an acute awareness of the spasms related to IBS.  


About 20% of people with IBS also suffer from depression. Clinically speaking, your IBS doesn’t directly cause depression, and depression doesn’t cause IBS, but the prevalence of both conditions at once can’t be ignored. IBS clearly triggers distress and worry, which can mimic depression, but they can also be symptoms of a clinical mood disorder. 

These emotional responses exacerbate your IBS symptoms and may also affect the way you handle your condition. For instance, you may neglect the dietary changes you need to make to manage your IBS, and may not have the energy to treat your diarrhea or constipation.


Many people with IBS experience irritability and anger issues. Negative emotions are known to trigger your body’s immune system and increase its inflammatory response. This psychobiological connection between your brain and your gut prompts feelings of anger about your condition, which in turn, worsen your IBS symptoms.

Managing your psychological response to IBS

Understanding the link between your IBS and your emotional response can help you identify the signs of distress, depression, anxiety, and anger and take steps to manage them. The first line of defense is managing your physical symptoms, like constipation, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. If lifestyle and dietary changes aren’t enough, and you need help getting these under control, Dr. Hussain can prescribe effective medications to support your efforts.

You can also reduce your stress by preparing for the situations that worry you. When you go out to dinner or on a road trip, consider these tips:

These are just a few of the strategies you can apply to give yourself some peace of mind while living with IBS. It takes the stress out of going to work, school, and social gatherings.

To learn more about how to treat and live with IBS, contact us at either of our locations or book an appointment online today to set up a consultation with Dr. Hussain. 

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