Symptoms of psychological distress (e.g. depression, anxiety, feeling “stressed out”) can be a significant aspect of coeliac disease for some people. A carefully managed gluten-free diet can help control symptoms and underlying inflammation, but it does not address the psychological burden of living with a chronic condition. There is some evidence to suggest that those with very good control of their illness (i.e. exceptional adherence to the gluten-free diet) may be at a greater risk of developing anxiety associated with being “hypervigilant” regarding food.
The current body of evidence shows that psychological support counselling focused on stress management and navigating gluten-free diet restrictions can help improve mood and gluten-free diet adherence in individuals experiencing psychological distress. Similarly, the broader research in chronic illness demonstrates that modifiable factors such as one’s beliefs regarding their illness and the coping strategies used to deal with illness issues predict psychological well-being.
Even if symptoms are well controlled, anxiety regarding accidental gluten exposures, or the reappearance of symptoms may persist. Your doctor can refer you to a mental health professional if you have concerns about your mental state. Even if you feel nothing is psychologically ‘wrong’, consultation with a mental health professional that specialises in (or is familiar with) gastrointestinal conditions can significantly improve your illness management skillset.
Diagnosing Coeliac disease