A man starts in a dark corner, looking sad. He then moves through a pane of glass dividing him from a group of people. Finally, he is shown speaking with the supportive group of friends.

Dealing with Stigma

I’m sort of an expert on stigma. There is stigma associated with bi-polar disorder, stigma attached to anxiety and personality disorders, stigma attached to being overweight, and a whole ton of stigma associated with IBS. Nobody really wants to talk about any of these things for a number of reasons. They may not want to hurt our feelings, they might think we are ‘strange’ because we deal with something others don’t, they may have negative feelings towards us because we probably ‘brought it upon ourselves’, and in the case of IBS…well, who wants to speak the business of the bowels?

Avoid talks about poop

See, I have IBS and write articles for an IBS help site and I’m not sure I’ve said the word ‘poop’ in any one of the articles I’ve written. I usually find some clever way to avoid saying ‘poop’ like the ‘business of the bowels’ statement above. Well, there I said it. Poop. It’s not so bad. We have poop problems. Sometimes, too much, sometimes not enough. That said, how in the hell can we have that conversation with someone about our illness. And sometimes we need to have that type of candid conversation. So our loved ones, our doctors, our therapists and our support system understands the pain and stress we go through on a daily basis.

How to deal with stigma and IBS

It really comes down to societal boundaries and shame. Because society says that talking about bowel movements or poop (I’m getting pretty good at this) is a shameful, disgusting, taboo type of thing, we are taught from a very young age that we are NOT TO TALK ABOUT IT. Well, this is an awfully big wall to break through. It’s really up to us to be ok with the conversation and stop caring so much about the reaction we expect to get. Don’t get me wrong, we will get THAT reaction. So, deal with it. You’re ok. A little embarrassment maybe, but nobody’s dying. If whatever you said offends someone so much that they ask you to stop, well, stop. Talk about it in general terms, illness, challenges, wellness, are all good words to get around the stigma. Does that suggest that we should be stigmatized because we have an illness? No, it certainly does not. We have a right to get the support and help we need, and that requires the ability to advocate for ourselves. We can all choose a way we are comfortable advocating, but we must advocate nonetheless. If we do not, we will end up staying just as sick as when we started, and will probably end up worse. This is the truth.

I am not a propagandist or the type to lead a revolution. I wouldn’t even know how to begin breaking down that wall that says that people with IBS are dirty, odd or whatever. I would support you if you decided to take the reigns, however lol ;-) I think we just need to be ok with whatever it is we carry that has stigma attached to it. It’s really what we believe about ourselves that really matters.

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