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Crohn's And U: The College Years

Crohn's in the Classroom

Living with Crohn's disease means there is the potential that your illness will interfere with your academics. The prospect of approaching your professors to let them know that you are struggling with your studies can be daunting. In this article, we will review strategies for managing the stress of staying on top of your schoolwork, and the benefits of communicating openly with your professors.

Denial makes things worse

Stress can become compounded if we deny that it's there. For people dealing with Crohn’s, denial may not be a risk factor we talk a lot about, but it's a real one. You might say to yourself, “If I didn't have Crohn's, I would be doing just fine in my classes.” Staying on top of all your coursework is a challenge for every college student, but for students also dealing with Crohn's, your disease may make it difficult, if not impossible, to complete your work. It's a scary feeling to have.

Denying that Crohn's might be interfering with your schoolwork can do more harm than good, and it can lead to counter-productive study habits. Let's say one night you start to feel lousy, which makes it difficult to study or stay up late to write a paper. Or let’s say you miss class one morning because your diarrhea was so bad that you couldn't leave the dorm room. You might then feel like it’s easier to avoid the next class than to explain to your professor why you missed the last one. Soon you can find yourself behind on the entire course and in danger of failing it. The denial has compounded itself. So what to do?

Stay calm. This will help you think clearly about your problem. Now let's try to make the situation better.

Managing your disease the right way

No matter how scary it is, or how much you loathe the thought of talking to your professor, it is a necessary step to overcoming denial. Employ some of the same strategies we've discussed in past articles. Remember, having Crohn’s disease is nothing to be ashamed of.

As you know, you will need to educate your professors about the disease. They don't need all the details, but they do need to know that you have a chronic medical condition that is interfering with your ability to do work. Most professors want you to succeed and will do everything within their power to offer support. If talking to your professor seems too scary, find the administrative office that advocates for students in need. This is usually the office of the Dean of Students. You should also talk to your doctor about a realistic course load and living situation, and how to manage your disease effectively. This may or may not mean taking time off until your disease becomes more manageable.

The important thing to remember is to not let fear and denial control you. As a person with Crohn's, you will face extra challenges and obstacles that can make college life more difficult. But there are many ways you can minimize the stress to make your life easier and more productive. Smart disease management means enlisting the support of others, listening to your body's needs, and staying calm when facing challenges.