Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Health Center

Font Size

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Depression

Stomach pain, bloating, diarrhea, or constipation can cause enough distress in a person's life. But often they are not the only problems. Studies show that anywhere from about 50% to 90% of people who seek treatment for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) also have some psychiatric disorder. This may include panic disorder, anxiety, or major depression. Although anxiety is often a problem for IBS patients, depression can also play a role in aggravating symptoms. As far as scientists know, IBS does not cause depression, nor does depression cause IBS. Together, however, they can wreak havoc on a person's life.

Recommended Related to Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Will Avoiding Carbs Called "FODMAPs" Ease IBS?

Got digestion problems, like irritable bowel syndrome, bloating, or gas? A "low-FODMAP" diet might help. Never heard of FODMAPs? It's a type of carb. But this is not your typical low-carb diet. The diet only limits carbs that are "Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Monosaccharides and Polyols." No wonder they came up with an acronym! For most people, FODMAPs are not a problem unless you eat too much of them. But some people are sensitive to them. FODMAPs draw water into your digestive tract, which could...

Read the Will Avoiding Carbs Called "FODMAPs" Ease IBS? article > >

How IBS and Depression Work Together

Some people are so worried that their IBS symptoms will flare up that they avoid going to work, school, or social functions. This fear may make them withdraw from social life. They may lose interest in activities they once enjoyed. They may feel restless or irritable. All these are symptoms of depression.

Or, the feeling of despair caused by depression may influence the way people cope with their IBS. They may feel too tired or hopeless to bother changing their diet to ease IBS symptoms. In the dark cloud of depression, people may think they can't treat IBS-related constipation or diarrhea effectively.

People with IBS may notice that emotional stress worsens their symptoms. People who are stressed often are more aware of pain and discomfort. IBS with depression can be a frustrating, often painful cycle.

Breaking the IBS, Depression Cycle

Some antidepressants are used to treat both depression and some of the symptoms of IBS. But they're used in different ways for each condition, so it's important talk with your doctor to learn if you're truly depressed.

For example, Beth Schorr-Lesnick, MD, FACG, a gastroenterologist at Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, New York, prescribes low doses of antidepressants to some patients who don't have depression. The drugs help block the brain's perception of pain, she says.

A number of studies have found that antidepressants can help with some IBS symptoms. Indeed, treatment guidelines published by the American College of Gastroenterology notes that tricyclic antidepressants like nortriptyline (Pamelor, Aventyl), amitriptyline, or desipramine (Norpramin) or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like citalopram (Celexa), paroxetine (Paxil), or sertraline (Zoloft), may help soothe IBS symptoms. But they also go on to say that more data are needed to be sure that antidepressants would be safe to use in the treatment of IBS.

Today on WebMD

filling glass of water from faucet
Prevention strategies to try.
stomach ache
From symptoms to treatments.
Causes, symptoms, and treatments.
worried mature woman
Are they related?
IBS Trigger Foods
Supplements for IBS What Works
IBS Symptoms Quiz
digestive health
gluten free diet
digestive myths
what causes diarrhea
top foods for probiotics