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Colitis and Stress 151 Patient Survey Results – Part 1

ulcerative colitis stress results

The time has come for a survey that is unique in so many ways, but at the same time so easy for UC’ers to relate to.  The percentages and numbers may be surprising to you, or they may be just as you had expected.  One thing is for sure, stress is a part of everyone’s life, and many of us have quite a bit in common.  For some of you, the responses you read below may be identical to your own exact experiences!

So, with the help of 151 colitis patients from 14 different countries (United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Ireland, Spain, Denmark, Russia, Sweden, Portugal, Dominican Republic, France, New Zealand and Peru and 1 other “unknown country”) I’d like to take a few moments and share Part 1 of the Colitis Stress Survey.  Over the next three days, the remaining Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4 will all be published on

The Colitis Stress Survey

(data gathered on August 8, 2012 from 151 Ulcerative Colitis patients)

Question #1:

Do you believe that STRESS affects your ulcerative colitis?

  • 139 People answered:   YES
  •   12  People answered:   Not Sure
  •    0 People answered:     NO

69 different people added comments to this question with this prompt: ” If you have any reasons for your answer, feel free to add them below”:

  • I do, the reason is if I speak with someone that is having a stressful time I feel that I hold this in my guts and can often feel sore afterwards. Especially more if I’m feeling like I’m in a ‘flair’.
  • Either as I feel a cramp or pain coming on it’s very irritating and usually I like to blame whatever I am doing at the time or thinking of. However it most likely is the ulcer bothering me and making something intolerable
  • My first flare was at a very dark time in my life. Other flares rates to major life stressors
  • I have been through a marriage break-up. In the most stressful parts my UC was worse, when things settled, so did the UC. Earlier before I was diagnosed, I had been through a very stressful time with a miscarriage and family illness and deaths. There definitely seemed to be a correlation.
  • for sure..everytime i get up set..i,m going to the bath room so much..not much blood at all..just allot of crap.i don,t know how much can be their at times..its unreal sometimes.seams like its worse when it stress with the family..for sure my sister
  • Im not sure if stress brings on an episode of colitis! however I do think that the symptoms of colitis cause me more stress/anxiety and this aggrivates the symptoms of colitis.
  • If I’m upset I instantaneously get cramps and pain.
  • I just notice that when I’m anxious or worried, I don’t necessarily run to the toilet but I feel like I could, I get the sensations of wanting to go for a bowel movement, for eg if a loved one isn’t feeling well, straight away I get all knotted inside & often will pass wind.I had a flare when moving house, when my mum was in hospital & 4 days before my wedding. I do think stress plays it’s part
  • absolutely. When I am stressed, I don’t eat well and when I don’t eat well I feel sick. Even just being stressed, I feel it physically all over my body and start to get symptoms of joint pains and IBS. I try to do everything I can to eliminate stress by having a more balanced lifestyle
  • If really stressed it can cause a flare.
  • Stress used to literally take over, now all i have to do is take a step back and let it walk by. No use worrying really, things could get better the next day.
  • When things happen that I cannot change and are not right/ethical…it upsets me and eats at me. I start to feel the flare starting almost immediately. I can handle someone’s illness/death…which I cannot change…but someone treating someone bad is what can trigger it.
  • I was totally exhausted and stressed when I was diagnosed and stress does seem to trigger flares.
  • Although, getting uc is very stressful
  • my major flares are always during times of extremly high stress.
  • Stress was the main reason for my last flare up. It also causes my pulse to race which I can feel pounding in my gut. There is a vicious cycle in that stress makes the uc worse and then that makes life more difficult which is more stressful!
  • Definitely! Picture in your mind an airline passenger with ’20/20/colitis’- (20 feet or 20 seconds) rushing up the aisle cause there’s a line at the rear restroom. “Allow me to pass” gets misinterpreted as a reference to ‘Allah’ and the air marshal tackles the guy resulting in an MBA (major bowel accident). We have had to give up air travel in favor of Amtrak (see below)
  • It absolutely does! The only time ive ever had flares in my life are when I was going through stressful periods eg change.
  • it depends on which kind of stress
  • I think it acts like a vicious cycle, I get stressed, my UC gets worse and then I stress about the UC and hit the multiplier button and sometimes it’s hard for me to notice that I’m so wound up.
  • For sure.
  • stress goes directly to my stomach and causes discomfort.
  • I can trace every flare to a period of either intense physical or intense mental/emotional stress, or a combo of both.
  • Only if it’s really ‘bad’ stress, for me anyway./
  • Most definitely! I contracted the disease while studying for finals, grieving from the very recent death of my childrens’ father (we were divorced) and commuting to work an hour each way.
  • On stress free days I don’t feel any symptoms, but when I’m stressing all the symptoms are amplified.
  • Cramps, BMs, and fatigue hit as soon as work gets hard, or the kids get restless.
  • When I am stressed (with anxiety) is when my symptoms are at its worst. I always pray there is a close bathroom!
  • Maybe it’s anxiety from stress but whatever stress is Present I’m usually sick not always but happens a lot
  • Stress triggers bad eating habits which seems to trigger my episodes. Its a circular effect. Also, I used to exercise rigidly. That seems to trigger it too now.
  • My first onset was two weeks after the birth of my son. It was a traumatic birth in many ways, after a complicated pregnancy. Also, my mother-in-law was staying with us at the time, and she and I were having extreme difficulties, which (for me, as I was suffering from postpartum depression) felt unmanageable.
  • Absolutely. Before my Remicade, shortly after a stressful incident, I had a major flare up that got me almost hospitalized, and prompted me to start Remicade.
  • I was a graduate student when I was diagnosed, the week of my thesis defense I thought I was going to have to schedule breaks into the defense!
    During stressful times my symptoms (usually just cramps) come back even when I’m in remission, if I’m not, then heaven help us.
  • I cannot pinpoint exactly but I feel each condition perpetuates the other
  • The more stress a persons has the more your body will fight and the weaker it will become so when you are tired and stressed it won’t take much for your UC to act up
  • Even though I am med free and have normal bowel movements, when put in a stressful situation I immediately have to use the bathroom–cannot be helped or held–once I go I am okay..its ALL nerves
  • Too many variables for me to isolate it to just stress. Sometimes I forget my meds. Sometimes cheat on the SCD diet.
  • Whenever I’m “more” stressed I must not let the UC take over!!I could be on toilet right away!!!
  • everytime I am stressed then I’ll have a cramping pain at the left side
  • When I went into my biggest flare ever I was dealing withy breakup from my fiancé, moving back home and a ton of other stress like work, I’m a teacher.
  • Only diagnosed a few months ago, and not sure yet if I’m feeling so stressed because of the UC, or if the UC is a problem because of stress. I think perhaps it’s both…
  • Anytime I go through a stressful time, I know that after the event/situation is over I will be in a major flare up within a few weeks. It’s like clockwork
  • If I don’t handle it the right can contribute to my physical symptoms.
  • I was only 9 when I was diagnosed, but I have had major flare ups during college and throughout my working life (I am 27 now). I do wonder if I didn’t work-flare ups would be less frequent.
  • My UC has a tendency to flare up when I’m under emotional pressure
  • I tend to flare up when I’m stressed out, but I’ve had colitis since I was 4 (and I don’t think I was very stressed out as a child)
  • It can become a cycle…I get stressed out, then I worry about my health, then I don’t sleep as well, and the stress creates a domino effect health=wise. For me, a lot of stress management is how much control I have of the source of your stress.
  • When I get stressed my symptoms worsen. It’s happened a few times now so isn’t a coincidence.
  • Stress doesn’t have an instant affect on me it builds up and I could find myself having an attack sometimes two weeks later.
  • Well, I do find that when I get worked up, either angry or emotional as such, that tension seems to worsen, joints flare up and muscles tighten. These are symptoms of the UC, but I have found that just maybe it could be related.
  • My Doc told me that my flare-up was stress/anxiety related
  • Absolutely! Without fail, if I’m having a particularly stressful day, I feel it in my stomach (and colon). I also feel its more difficult for my body to heal when I’m stressed.
  • Stress has a direct result within minuits of having an attack.
  • A flare has almost always followed the times in my life when I have experienced significant levels of stress.
  • Break ups with my partner and freaking out about impending surgery always make it far worse.
  • I can feel stress in my stomach
  • Sometimes I feel stressed and anxious, but I don’t know how that affects my UC.
  • Seem to have aggravated symptoms if feeling stressed, or have lots going on in my life
  • Flare has coincided with exams and a job interview.
  • Including seasonal stress – like exam time in the spring and start of school time in the fall; holiday time; etc.
  • It appears that the more stress I have the worse my colitis gets.
  • I’ve had this flare up for a few weeks now, and it was triggered by a very stressful situation at work.
  • If I have a very stressful life even I can tend get a flare up usually though once the worst of the stress has past!
  • My symptoms get worse when I am stressed.
  • If placed in a stressful situation, it gets my stomach going!
  • Worse the stress i can see my flare gets worse
  • Was diagnosed after a minor car accident in 2011. Got it under control and next flare was after stress with a friend.
  • Graduate school stress and depression, I believe, contributed greatly to my most recent flare.


Part 2 is coming up Tomorrow

and it will include the answers to the following Questions:

-Do you think you handle stress well when it presents itself in your life?

-What’s an example of a stressful situation you’ve recently faced, AND HOW did you get past it?

Thank you again to all 151 participants of this survey.  As crazy as it may seem, I suspect many people will feel much more…dare I say “Normal” after reading through all the survey results…:)

(The survey participants are all part

of the main iHaveUC newsletter. 

If you have not already joined the newsletter,

you may do so by clicking here

and you will be notified of future surveys)

More results coming soon and all results from all the colitis are always listed in the survey’s section.


Adam Scheuer


8 thoughts on “Colitis and Stress 151 Patient Survey Results – Part 1”

  1. Cecile

    thank you so much adam, for being so present, so lively, so nice, and so smily(?), your strength is to watch in front of your life with confidence, and you are an example for all of us!

  2. Rebeka

    Thanks for another survey!
    Crazy, how quickly it filled up. In my opinion it shows that stress is indeed a huge factor in the disease. It’s great that we are all so aware of how our bodies react to it, this helps us find different ways to cope with stress.

  3. Wow that was fast! Good work :) When I was diagnosed as a child I was part of a study that showed YES, stress is a factor. I want to shout it out, AHHHHHHrrrgh! Whew! Stress relief!!!

  4. There is no doubt stress is part of UC…as with any illness but more so with digestive illnesses because our guts are tied to the rest of our bodies a lot like our brains are tied to everything. When we feel stress, we feel it in the gut first. It can alter our digestive systems and keep them from working properly, leading to toxicity and sickness. Nonetheless, I love seeing this. It is confirmation that we all go through it and may give others ideas on how to manage stress, or at least not feel alone. Thank you Adam and those who answered the survey. I’ve heard mediation do wonders for others. I usually pop in some music and focus on my breathing.

  5. I feel like stress is definitely a factor. I have noticed the less I worry about things, the better my symptoms. I have learned to let the “little things” go and just relax. My symptoms generally improve tremendously!

  6. Allison-3

    In terms of our evolution, our intestines truly were our “first brain” before our brains grew big and super useful. We have tons of nerves and receptors that come directly from our guts, which affect neurotransmitter/hormone release in our brains. That’s why we feel “butterflies” and we should usually trust our “gut feeling”.
    Adam and everyone- I think stress (particularly parasympathetic and sympathetic brain system imbalances) is a huge contributor and sometimes a challenging one to keep under control. Good job on the survey.

    1. Allison,

      Couldn’t agree with you more! We’re getting ready to contest a parking ticket, and I’m expecting the butterflies to start flying right before the judge gives the final call… Maybe I’ll claim leniency due to UC…:)

      glad you liked the stress survey!

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