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How Seeing a Psychologist Helped My IBS

How Seeing a Psychologist Helped My IBS

There have been moments when having IBS has caused me despair. So much so that I’ve been frightened of what might happen next. In fact, so frightened that it shocked me into making an appointment with my doctor so that I could be referred to a psychologist to get me back on track.

IBS may be a physical condition, but it affects you mentally too

For me, the trigger was thinking that I’d be feeling like this for the rest of my life. And, if my life was going to be like this, did I really want to live another 40 or 50 years feeling that way?

The answer to that question was “no”. I didn’t want to keep living and feeling like that every day.

And this wasn’t just a random thought for me either. It was something I was thinking about multiple times a day. I couldn’t block it out. But it was when I started thinking about it multiple times in an hour that I said enough was enough.

It was clear I couldn’t keep living like that. But I knew I wanted to keep living. I wasn’t ready to give up. There had to be a way out. Something had to change.

So I went to the doctor, cried throughout the first half of the consultation while explaining what was going on, and then asked what they thought I should do.

Since I was already on the low FODMAP diet, which was making massive headway on getting my symptoms under control, I was already doing the big things needed to help my IBS. But because I’d been suffering for so long, combined with a massive flare up I’d started experiencing almost a year earlier, my mental defenses had become so low that I couldn’t pull myself out of it even though my IBS was improving.

Mental challenges need mental help

My doctor, as lovely and supportive as she was, wasn’t equipped to help me in the way that I needed, so she referred me to a psychologist instead. I was given a list of some therapists that might be suitable and was told to look them up and see which one I thought would be the best fit for me.

In the end I chose one that worked very close to where I lived – I didn’t need a long drive to stop me from going – and who also specialized in anxiety, depression and chronic medical conditions. It’s the last point that was the deciding factor for me, because I knew my depression wasn’t caused by grief and my anxiety wasn’t caused by lack of confidence. Everything appeared to stem from the IBS and the steps I took to keep it under control and hide it from the world.

And then I got the help that I needed

It took about 4 weeks to get into this psychologist, which was a long time considering where I was at mentally. But there was something about knowing that I was already on the path to getting help that aided me during that wait and kept me going.

At first we had weekly sessions, then fortnightly, then monthly, until I didn’t need them anymore and my IBS and my mental health were both stable. Removing the mental health challenges did help to remove the IBS trigger of stress and anxiety, but it also made me more capable of performing the other daily tasks I needed to avoid my triggers.

So please don’t ignore your mental state

If you’re struggling mentally, regardless of where your IBS is at physically, please do seek help. IBS is hard enough to deal with without having to deal with mental health challenges too.

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.

Comments

  • Joonie76
    3 months ago

    Hi I have a comment but as an “aside” to the focus of this article. I too have waited months to see a psychiatrist/therapist over the many years. In 2016 I had a new family physician who was part of a clinic and with ibs-d and other issues (such as depression) he quickly got me an appointment with a “Social Worker” at the clinic. I attended monthly most of the year, sometimes once or twice a month after signing a waiver that he could contact my my family doctor. I then took a break for a few months, but went back in the Spring. Recently I asked my GP for a copy of my patient file which he did, and it was put on my USB stick. Looking through it later I was concerned that not only had the “therapist” confirmed my attendance at the sessions, he actually quoted some things I had said along with his viewpoint. I am in Canada and I thought that what was said in confidence to a therapist was private. Some of the things he put in his report to my doctor were inconsequential and just chatter about family etc. Had I said something of grave importance I would undestand. Surely that info. could have stayed in the therapist’s office/file and my doctor just advised whether or not I was making progress etc? Just wondered if anyone had any comment and in future visit to any mental health counsellor, if through a family doctor, will ask “what” type of information will be shared… just wondered. June

  • tmholland moderator
    3 months ago

    @Joonie76,

    While I live in the U.S. and do not know the system of confidentiality in Canada, I will say that if you authorize the sharing of medical records from one doctor to the other, the records will be shared in their entirety, just as they would be if you requested them for yourself. I remember the first time I read my therapist’s notes (shudder :-)). Now, both doctors should be held by the same standard of privacy and should only be able to transfer records to and from the doctor’s that you have designated. I believe there are ways to designate what records are shared, so that you can share some and not others. I am a social worker and have to deal with this type of thing a lot. Just my thoughts. Thank you for sharing. -Todd, IrritableBowelSyndrome.net Team

  • DorisE
    2 years ago

    Hi. At what point and at what stage is it ok to say I have had enough.. Even after mental health therapy, with many years of various physical, painful, ongoing, complex medical conditions and reactions to medications that have to be stopped due to side effects, the ageing pricess, the lack of quality of life… is it not up to me to decide if I am prepared to continue ? I dont know if this is a suitable subject, question, but sometimes is it not only our lives being affected but the lives if our loved ones. Ibs d Is hard enough to cope with but with each additional medical issue, it is very had to remain positive and have hope.

  • Chris Hall moderator
    2 years ago

    Hi DorisE – I’m so sorry to hear about how much you’ve been struggling. The impacts of IBS (and other chronic conditions) are far-reaching. While I can’t give you an answer to the question you posed, it seems like you’re looking for more options than you currently have. Have you had conversations with your doctor(s) about different options? I also wanted to refer you to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline in case you want to reach out to them. You can give them a call -1-800-273-8255 or chat with them online with at http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

    We’re so glad that you’ve been active here on our site, and may not make your physical symptoms better, it can be helpful to connect with those who are going through similar things. Please keep us posted – we’re thinking of you, Doris.

    Take care,
    Chris, IrritableBowelSyndrome.net Team Member

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