A man sits at a computer, furiously typing while the images of uncaring doctors loom over him.

Do Doctors Take My Condition Seriously?

I just want to use this opportunity to vent yet again, in hopes that some of you may be able to relate. There’s a reminder I keep having time and time again, and it’s that most people, even doctors, are not well informed about IBS nor empathize with IBS sufferers. Point, blank, period. I wish I could just end the article with that last statement, but I clearly should explain myself to those who may think I’m being harsh and don’t know where I’m coming from. I have dealt with numerous doctors and other health professionals who don’t view IBS as a serious condition and seem to demean those who find it to be debilitating. For years I stopped seeing a doctor regularly because I couldn’t find one who would take me and my condition seriously. I kept getting the same forced concern look from them, hearing more than one say, “you’re perfectly fine compared to someone with [insert any other chronic illness]” or “IBS is not that bad, just increase your fiber intake.” I’ve never asked for pity, just understanding and help, but never truly received it until I started doing my own research. For this reason, I will always choose to advocate for patients with IBS because our condition is not something to be taken lightly, especially by any medical/health expert.

Lack of understanding about IBS from doctors

Another reason for my vent is I recently finished reading a book called “Reclaim your Life from IBS” by Melissa G. Hunt, PhD, which I have referenced a few times in my past articles. Overall, I believe the book made some great points, and I learned some new things about IBS from reading it. For instance, I have made references about visceral hypersensitivity, which is something new I learned from reading the book, and it helped me gain a better understanding of my pain and what is going on internally. However, I must admit that there were some parts of the book I didn’t agree with. While reading further in the book, the author has a section where she tries to “help” IBS patients gain a different perspective about their condition. For example, she tells us not to “catastrophize your GI symptoms” and that supposedly “all people – normal, healthy people – have GI sensations and symptoms from time to time. It’s not that big of a deal.” (pg. 137). I literally had to read that page over and over again just so that I didn’t take anything out of context. To be honest when I read it, my heart sank. I guess I could assume her intention was good, but since I don’t know her personally, I can only take what’s in front of me. I feel like her statements were insensitive and not fully knowledgeable, especially since she does not suffer from the chronic illness herself. I was caught by surprise when I read that section of Melissa’s book because until then, her every word resonated with me. I don’t want to blow that section out of proportion because, overall, her book had a lot of good and valid information. However, the reason why that part hit a nerve for me is because that is the very mindset I try to fight against for the sake of the IBS community. Demeaning our pain by comparing IBS to more life-threatening conditions makes others assume that everyone can handle IBS pain the same, or even that everyone with IBS experiences the condition the exact same way. In my opinion, this outlook should not come from any doctor or health expert, but unfortunately for some it does.

Raising awareness

I want anyone reading this to understand that I don’t feel this way about all doctors. I have in fact come across a few on social media who seem to be sincere advocates for IBS patients, which I love seeing. However, in my experience, I have yet to personally meet or be in the care of one who seems to really take my pain, and overall condition serious. I have somewhat expressed my feelings about this topic in a couple of my past articles, but the need to vent again is because I keep getting reminded from time to time why I am so disappointed at the fact that some doctors and other experts just truly don’t understand the extent or severity of IBS. So, through this article and platform, I vent not to bash Melissa G. Hunt, Ph.D, or any doctor, for that matter (I actually recommend her book for IBS sufferers since it still has great information). However, I vent because I hope my sentiment can somehow raise awareness about the mindset that has to change when it comes to doctors or health experts working with IBS patients or writing about the subject.

Can any of you reading this article relate? If so, please feel free to share below any of your experiences. Thank you so much for reading and I look forward to seeing your responses below!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The IrritableBowelSyndrome.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


View Comments (14)
  • Gavinllong
    1 day ago

    Same they haven’t got a clue most gp are useless we know more cause we have thrilled and actually took the time to look it up my experience with gp s is not good I have lost all respect for them is it not common sense to have a doctor who specialise s in the subject rather than some body with a precondition of a driving examiner rant over am thinking of going back and study medicine if they can do it i certainly can and actually help people instead of giving them antidepressants this society is messed up and they play a part in it along with politicians and the rest not in a good mood maybe I need pharmaceutical antidepressants lol

  • HessP moderator author
    1 day ago

    I’m so sorry you haven’t had the best experiences with general physicians, @gavinllong! As you can see, many of us here can relate to one another in that regard. Please never lose hope and never give up on finding the proper care you deserve. I hope the day will bring lots of positivity to you. Sending positive vibes your way! Thank you for sharing and stay strong! – Hess, IrritableBowelSyndrome.net Team

  • ExplodingGuts
    2 days ago

    MDs are professionally (legally) bound to follow a certain approach to diagnosis and treatment. If they go beyond a particular standard of practice and the patient is injured, the error however well intended, is legally actionable. That’s the game.

    MDs are supposed to keep up with advances in medical knowledge but where to begin when there’s so much to read? It would be useful if more were aware of the connection btwn asthma/respiratory illness and IBS for starters. Finding a doc who did make the connection saved me – as did my Bowen massage therapist, who recently recommended a tbsp of apple cider vinegar an hour before meals. So far, I feel as if I’m finally getting my life back!

    My gastroenterologist, a top man here, did all the relevant tests, including various ‘oscopies. The tests revealed nothing so he prescribed assorted ‘sand’ to be consumed in quantity, every hour on the hour practically. Seemed to help a bit initially but I was still taking a LOT of Immodium. Finally got rid of all of it and determined to cure self or learn to live with it.

    Gastro guy had spent significant time trying to get me to admit to stress. I love my work so it couldn’t be that. There had been significant stress for a few years in the marriage but those yrs were long past.

    Or were they?

    It finally occurred to me that it had taken some yrs to develop the IBS exploding guts response and that it might take time to modify it if I was willing to pay closer attention to the stress FX on my stomach. I’m trying. I think it’s working.

    Finding qualified experts

    I hand-pick ALL of my specialists today – zero trust in GPs, who may be financially interested in those they recommend. I check mine out at various social media sites until I’m satisfied then plead with GP for a referral. That’s how it works in Canada. I resent the need for a GP referral but that’s how it work here. Fairly long wait times, too. The trick is to get on a list of cancellations.

    I would strongly suggest this approach to those who are disrespected by your MDs. Be sure to submit your own review/s at social media sites, too! There can be no defamation if you stick to the facts.

    Social media reviews do influence professionals. Such reviews give consumers the power we lacked under the monopolies. Take full advantage of it.

  • HessP moderator author
    1 day ago

    Thank you so much for sharing your input, experience, and advice @explodingguts! It seems you, too, have been through quite a journey of finding the best ways to manage and live with your symptoms. I am curious to learn more about the connection between IBS and asthma, so please feel free to share more of your knowledge in our “Stories” tab: https://irritablebowelsyndrome.net/stories/ . I’m quite sure many other members would like to learn more about it as well.

    I appreciate you taking the time out to read my article, and I will certainly take your advice in regards to researching specialists through social media into consideration. Thanks again for sharing and being a part of our IBS community! Best – Hess, IrritableBowelSyndrome.net Team

  • ExplodingGuts
    24 hours ago

    I’ve just written to this guy asking if there is an article to explain the respiratory-IBS connection. I will post his reply if he gives me one. My specialist, Dr. Mark Turner, the one MD who has really helped me, says this is the guy who made the connection:

    Director, Centre for Heart and Lung Health

  • pauliejay
    2 days ago

    My experience is just the same regarding Drs knowledge or interest in IBS. It’s the same with fibromyalgia. I have both. It takes a lot of self research to positively deal with both conditions. I’m sure there must be health providers out there that have the expertise in these areas but I haven’t met one thus far.

  • HessP moderator author
    2 days ago

    I’m so sorry to hear you suffer from both IBS and fibromyalgia, @pauliejay! Please know there are others in the community who also suffer from both, so you are not alone. I can relate to the struggle of learning how to deal with your condition all on your own while lacking guidance from a medical professional who would be more knowledgeable. It’s unfortunate that this seems to be a common experience among many of us with IBS, but I am hopeful that the dynamic between patients and doctors will change sooner than later. Thanks for relating to my article, and also being a part of the community! – Hess, IrritableBowelSyndrome.net Team

  • KBM
    2 days ago

    Thank you so much for your articles…for many years I have felt very alone in both with my symptoms & also emotions about having IBS. There are so many doctors out there that do not take IBS seriously…several of which I have been to. It is frustrating that when you have an illness that can effect you everyday, but can be dismissed or put into a category of a “stress illness”. IBS can have the same devistating symptoms as Crohns, yet is rarely acknowledged as a “real” disease. I am still searching for help, reading as much as I can, searching for a doctor who not only can sympathize but actually has IBS so that they can relate and understand the impact this horrible disease has on someone’s life. Please keep writing…just knowing others have the same thoughts, symptoms and stress associated with IBS helps me deal with my bad days a little easier. Thank you!

  • HessP moderator author
    1 day ago

    I’m glad to know my article resonated with you, and helped with feeling less alone, @KBM! Before finding this awesome IBS community, I used to feel very alone in my suffering as well. I understand how difficult it is suffering from a medical condition and also lacking support from a medical professional/specialist. However, I like the advice @explodingguts gave in regards to doing research on social media for IBS experts/specialists who can be of great help, which we have a resource that may be useful to you. Here is a link with IBS experts, in case you’re interested and would like to reach out to any: https://irritablebowelsyndrome.net/experts/. I hope you find this information to be helpful.

    Never give up on your search for proper care, and know that we are all in this fight together! Thanks for being a part of the community and stay positive! Best – Hess, IrritableBowelSyndrome.net Team

  • AmericanDad
    2 days ago

    A few things here: First, I can relate to the response you get from doctors regarding their dismissal of symptoms or how they make you feel. Also, I think personally it is very frustrating since just about every website you look up having to do with IBS somehow links to either colon cancer, or crohn’s disease, or ulcerative colitis, or anything in between. The fact of the matter is that when you go and finally get into to see a doctor, primary or GI specialist, they ask the same questions over and over again.

    1. Do you have any rectal bleeding?
    2. are you losing weight unintentionally?
    3. Are you having trouble staying awake?

    Here is the thing about that; first, look at my record people! I’ve been down this path before, you ask the same questions, I tell you no, nothing like that, then you tell me to eat more fiber, which I have had horrendous reactions too (pain/bloating/having BM’s every 20 minutes for a month). Look I get the diagnostic questions, really I do, but if they felt confident in that IBS isn’t going to kill me and that these symptoms aren’t life threatening then why are they so darn confusing with the treatment plan? Just about everywhere you turn you are told that if you have GI related symptoms then call a doctor because even though you suffer from IBS, IBS does not mean you can’t have the other more dangerous illnesses that mimic IBS. So wait, do you want me to call you or not? Then there is the fact that those same web searches say that if you had one of those more dangerous illnesses that likely having symptoms means you are too late. I’m sorry what? And the doctors wonder why we are crazy about our experiences. So it’s either nothing, or its the worst thing? I also don’t know why they still ask people with diagnosed IBS if you have unusual or a change in bowel habits. DUDE, by definition my/our bowel habits change dramatically in the course of a few hours, nay, occasionally while having a single bowel movement. Look, I try and be a rational person about my condition/conditions but some experienced physician based treatment and plan would be appreciated. Questions for those on this forum? How many of you have had a doctor tell you that hemorrhoids are just part of the deal with IBS? That of course you have rectal discomfort, its all a part of IBS? Or better still, not had a doctor tell you other common issues until you are forced to make another appointment to evaluate the conditions, such as: proctitis, prostatitis, lower back pain, perineal pain due to inflammation, etc. All of which I was told are very common with IBS after the fact. Hell one of the things your told to look for is narrow stool; the hell does that even mean? When you have inflammation you get narrow stool, but thanks for the heart attack doctor. I go nuts every time they love to throw, “women more commonly have IBS” at me as though I shouldn’t have it or somehow this means I am acting feminine in my bring concerns, pain, or discomfort to their attention. Hey, maybe more men don’t report IBS because we get emasculated by physicians for what they largely consider a female issue. I am pretty sure that a GI tract is gender neutral. Anyway, I could continue but I think that if you are on this forum reading this comment you already know what I’m talking about.

  • HessP moderator author
    1 day ago

    Your words are definitely resonating with me, @americandad! One of my favorite parts was when you said, “The fact of the matter is that when you go and finally get into to see a doctor, primary or GI specialist, they ask the same questions over and over again.

    1. Do you have any rectal bleeding?
    2. are you losing weight unintentionally?
    3. Are you having trouble staying awake?

    Here is the thing about that; first, look at my record people!”

    That is so spot on with my mentality whenever I see a doctor because I, too, get tired of being asked the same questions, especially when my medical record is right in front of their eyes. I just want to be clear that I don’t think ALL doctors behave this way – I can only talk from personal experience. Also, one could argue that most doctors have many patients to see within a certain time-window and don’t have enough time to study every patient’s medical history. To that I say, it’s unfortunate.

    Another thing you said that resonated with me was, “Hey, maybe more men don’t report IBS because we get emasculated by physicians for what they largely consider a female issue. I am pretty sure that a GI tract is gender neutral.”

    I think that is a great point and theory that gets overlooked. I have written an article about why I feel most men don’t talk about their IBS. In case you want to check it out, here is the link: https://irritablebowelsyndrome.net/living/why-men-dont-talk-ibs/. Nonetheless, I wish more of us men would speak up and be more vulnerable about our pain.

    Thank you so much for sharing with us! I think you have a way with words and I admire the way you articulate your experience. Please feel free to share more of your experience through our ‘Stories’ tab: https://irritablebowelsyndrome.net/stories/. I look forward to hearing more from you!

    Stay strong and positive, and thanks being a part of the community! Best – Hess, IrritableBowelSyndrome.net Team

  • ExplodingGuts
    2 days ago

    Wow. What a nightmare! You’re right – it is confusing and unhelpful. It was a revelation to me to learn that there is a connection btwn respiratory illness (I have asthma) and IBS. My respirologist/pulmonologist assures me it’s known but no other doctor I’ve met beyond my gastro guy had ever heard of it.

    Strongly suggest searching social media reviews of MDs. This worked well for me, though I’m still battling the condition. My own hypothesis is that my IBS is a learned response to stress I felt I had no control over. I hope to unlearn the response with conscious effort. Also, my Bowen therapist now a pal, advised a tbsp of apple cider vinegar in water an hour before meals. I’m not big on ‘alternative’ medicine but for weeks now- maybe a month – i’ve been almost Immodium free.

    Pls keep talking about it – what works, what didn’t, and submit social media reviews about MDs to expand consumer knowledge. It’s all we can do to encourage MDs to improve.

  • ldonne
    1 week ago

    Hi @HessP,
    I can relate to you. I went to my doctor a while ago for a medical note for work. Something I needed in order to return back after overcoming a bad flare. After him referring to me as ” princess” and then telling me I tense up, I started to feel like I quickly had to get out of the room. Very unprofessional and didn’t seem to care at all.

    I no longer go there. I have a gastroenterologist now that I see, and even though I do not see I’m often he has told me if i have any problems with my condition to make an appointment.

  • HessP moderator author
    6 days ago

    Hi @ldonne,

    Thank you so much for reading my article and being able to relate! I’m sorry you had to deal with a doctor who was demeaning and unprofessional. It seems many of us with IBS have similar experiences. I hope you never have to deal with an experience like that ever again.

    However, I’m glad you found a specialist who takes your best interest at heart. It is always comforting when someone in the medical field has your back. Wishing you much strength and positivity to help get you through the rough days! Thank you for sharing! Best – Hess, IrritableBowelSyndrome.net Team

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