Stress Health. 2021 Jul 17. doi: 10.1002/smi.3080. Online ahead of print.
IBD is a chronic health condition exacerbated by negative emotional stress experiences. In the current study we examined whether the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic coincided with an increase in stress experiences and accordingly an aggravation of disease activity in IBD patients. Sixty-three IBD patients (30 Crohn's disease or CD, 33 Ulcerative Colitis or UC) completed an online survey during the COVID-19 related lockdown, assessing clinical disease activity, disease related quality of life, presence of functional gastrointestinal symptoms, social isolation and stress experiences. Scores were then compared to pre-lockdown baseline screening. The pandemic yielded a significant baseline-to lockdown increase in emotional stress and social isolation. Stress increments, particularly those occasioned by interpersonal tension and excessive interpersonal proximity, were associated with a worsening of functional gastrointestinal symptoms. Exacerbations of loneliness coincided with an escalation of CD activity, functional gastrointestinal symptoms, and a decline in subjective health. Lastly, COVID-19 anxiety was significantly related to CD symptom severity and social dysfunction. The findings show that shifts in IBD expression are closely linked to changes in emotional stress experiences and interpersonal relatedness. As such, they contribute to a better understanding of inter-individual differences in IBD progression and provide leads for therapeutic interventions. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
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