The Beck Depression Scale: is your Depression linked to IBS?

You may have heard of the Beck Depression Scale, or the Beck Depression Inventory if you have ever suffered from depression or anxiety caused by Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

Some people reading this will have suffered anxiety or depression or both as a result of their IBS. You may find that anxiety or depression have contributed or even triggered your IBS.

The Beck Depression Scale, or the Beck Depression Inventory consists of a self inventory that you, as a patient, may be asked to fill in by your doctor. I recently visited my own doctor and my depression was measured on the Beck Depression Scale.

Although I have suffered moderate to very severe anxiety since childhood, and depression for almost as long, I had not heard of the Beck Depression Scale, or seen the self-inventory before.The form covers such questions as how anxious you may feel throughout the week, and has that anxiety prevented you from going out in social situations. You may tick, for example 0 – I have not been anxious this week, or perhaps 2 – I have felt anxious for one or two days, or 4 – I have felt so anxious I could not go out at all.

There are several questions on the self-inventory relating to hopelessness, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts. The doctor or counselor may ask you about suicide or self-harm in greater depth. Your depression Scale, (level of depression) will be calculated by the doctor or counselor based on your answers. For instance, 0–13: minimal depression; 14–19: mild depression; 20–28: moderate depression; and 29–63: severe depression. The higher the score, the more severe. My own score was very high, and I have been described an anti-depressant.

It is important to answer the Beck Depression Inventory honestly, even though it is very personal. The Depression Scale allows your doctor to decide if you need medications, and which ones may best suit your own particular needs. For example, I was given one which treats anxiety as well as depression, whereas other people may require a medication that treats depression primarily. Your doctor or counselor will use the Beck Depression Scale to ask you certain questions about your depression and anxiety, and may suggest certain self-help techniques, or small challenges you may wish to try. The counselor I talked to, after I had explained my social phobia, panic attacks and fear of crowds, suggested I might walk around shops, or go a little further from home each day. She also said that if you drew a graph of panic, it will rise sharply, but, if you face it, will gradually drop. It is very important to understand that the facing of these challenges must be done in what she called baby-steps.

IBS can cause episodes of severe depression, because it can effectively stop you doing the things you want and need to do, such as travel, social situations, such as shopping, nights out with friends, vacations, and of course, work. However, the greater the stress and anxiety, the worse IBS becomes. You might be worried about traveling somewhere, because you will need to use a bathroom, but perhaps the journey is a long one, down an interstate, or to an unfamiliar place. There may be restrooms, but what if they are busy? What if you are at work with IBS and are embarrassed to keep having to go to restroom? Worry piles on top of worry, and the mind starts to imagine worst-case scenarios.

It is not surprising that eventually IBS sufferers can feel trapped, alone, alienated from people, and then become depressed.

The Beck Depression Inventory, and the Beck Depression Scale are widely used, and are seen as a starting point from which the doctor or counselor can begin to treat – and help you to treat – your anxiety and depression.

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