A Link Between Prednisone, Mental Illness

by Bill Brenner on August 16, 2011

Since I have Crohn’s Disease, I’ve been asked if it’s linked to OCD. Yesterday, someone took the question a step further and asked if I think Prednisone led to my mental illness.

Mood music:

Here was the question, as posed to me on Facebook:

“Bill, do you think prednisone had anything to do with your OCD? You are the second person I know to have Crohn’s and depression, I have taken the drug in the past and it definitely messed with me mentally.”

The short answer is that I don’t know. I’m not a doctor and I can’t speculate on scientific questions I know nothing about. All I have are scientifically unsupported theories based on personal experience. I’m willing to explore the question from that perspective.

Of this I have no doubt:

Prednisone had brutal side effects that linger to this day. It damaged my vision, making glasses necessary at all times. It sparked migraines that still come and go. It gave me mood swings that have never really left me. And it had plenty to do with the binge-eating habit that has hounded me as an adult.

Prednisone does an excellent job of cooling down a Chron’s flare up. If not for the drug, chances are pretty good I wouldn’t be here right now. More than once the disease got so bad the doctor’s were talking about removing my colon and tossing it in the trash. Each time, the medication brought me back from the brink.

But there was a heavy price — literally and figuratively.

The drug quadrupled my appetite, which was already in overdrive because of the food restrictions imposed upon me during times of illness.

It corrupted my relationship with food forever.

But I can’t say it was the cause of me developing OCD. There are many reasons I developed the disorder. Prednisone may have had a role, but I’ll never know for sure.

But that’s fine with me.

At this point, it doesn’t matter how I got it. I have it, and the best I can do is manage it with all my coping tools, with extra help from Prozac and the 12 Steps of Recovery, which I use to control the addictive behaviors.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jeff August 20, 2012 at 7:10 am

Interesting post. I’ve been off prednisone for about 12 yrs now, but was on a low dose of it for at least ten yrs. I also struggle with depression, anxiety, and mood swings. I spoke with someone I know who works in disability services, and she said she rarely works with crohns folks who don’t also have depression and anxiety. Speaking for myself I can say that my moods were definitely more severe when I was on Prednisone. Now it just seems like it comes with the territory. Thanks for the thoughtful post!

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