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.
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!