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What Is the Connection Between Constipation and Depression?

A doctor talking to a woman with depression.
Laxatives can help relieve constipation.
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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 18 July 2014
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Many people might imagine that constipation and depression are unrelated, as one is mental in nature while the other is physical. In reality, however, the mental changes a person experiences can affect his physical health, and depression and other forms of mental stress often cause or contribute to constipation. Among the reasons depression may contribute to constipation are the poor eating habits and lack of exercise that often accompany bouts of depression. Likewise, a depressed, stressed out person may fail to move his bowels regularly, which can only make matters worse. Additionally, some people find that depression is irritating to their digestive systems overall, which can result in diarrhea, constipation, or alternating bouts of both.

Sometimes the connection between constipation and depression becomes evident because of a person's eating habits. In many cases, depressed people fail to eat as healthily as they normally would. Some forgo fruits, vegetables, and high-fiber foods in favor of eating junk foods or quick meals. They may also skip meals at times and fail to drink enough water to facilitate regular bowel movements. They might even make choices that work to further compound the problem, such as choosing to drink too much alcohol in an effort to dull their emotions.

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In many cases, the connection between constipation and depression is related to exercise. A person's ability to have normal, regular bowel movements is somewhat related to the movement of his body. Exercise helps the digestive system work properly and keeps muscles involved in producing bowel movements in good condition. When a depressed person neglects exercise or even stops performing many of his everyday activities, his chances of becoming constipated can increase dramatically. Once the person is already constipated, the further lack of exercise may only make matters worse.

People who are depressed often feel off kilter and have a difficult time keeping up with their normal schedules and patterns, which represents another way constipation and depression are connected. While many people have bowel movements on a regular basis without putting much thought into going to the bathroom, a depressed person may behave in an opposite manner. Using the bathroom to have a bowel movement may become a chore that a depressed person has difficulty remembering, or he may lack the motivation to go to the bathroom when he feels the urge to do so. After a person skips bowel movements even a couple of times, his bowels can become hard and compacted, and the affected person may become constipated.

Interestingly, some people find that their digestive systems are affected by stress levels and how they feel mentally, even if none of their habits change. A depressed, stressed person may notice that he has bouts of diarrhea or constipation. In some cases, he may even develop diarrhea, and once that resolves, experience constipation. Nausea is also a common problem among people with digestive systems that are particularly vulnerable to stress.

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Discuss this Article

Sporkasia
Post 3

Animandel - Any condition or disease interfering with your diet can cause constipation or diarrhea, so I'm not sure how much that alone would help in diagnosing depression. Of course, combined with other symptoms it might lead you or your doctor in the right direction to help determine whether is it depression or something else affecting you.

Animandel
Post 2

Drentel -- You make a good point. Sometimes we are so busy dealing with the symptoms (constipation for example) that we fail to see the disease (depression in this case).

Many people know that depression is often one of the possible fatigue causes, but I doubt many people even think of constipation as a possible warning sign of depression. It would have taken me forever to make that connection.

Drentel
Post 1

This article is good and worth reading because it highlights what everyone should and needs to know about depression; and that is that the disease screws you up. It can totally change a person's life. The activities you once took for granted become chores.

I think that is one reason so many people who have never had depression can't understand the disease. You can't will yourself out of depression because it morphs into other issues like constipation, dehydration, forgetfulness, withdrawal, fatigue and on and on. The physical symptoms of depression can seem endless, and then you have to cope with the mental and emotional symptoms also.

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