When I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis (a form of Inflammatory Bowel Disease) at the age of 13, my GI immediately told me that I did not have IBS, which she referred to as a disorder brought on by stress. At that age, I didn’t think much of it but I never really took anyone’s diagnosis of IBS seriously when I was younger because that had been in my head for so long.
I also never really thought it was anything that lasted for more than a day or so.
I believed that if someone just changed their diet, all of their symptoms could be avoided or at least, manageable to the point that it wouldn’t impede on someone’s life.
I thought, because of what my doctor said so many years ago, that IBS was tied into someone’s emotional state.
As I got older and started understanding more about how the world works, that last thought I had pretty much went away. I realized that IBS sufferers are caught in a catch-22. They have the disorder which can understandably cause a person to feel more anxiety or depression than a person without gastrointestinal issues would, but these people were probably just being sent off to a therapist to help them deal with their GI issues which alone, isn’t helpful in the least.
I understand about the mind/gut connection and learned it was applied a lot more to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) than any other GI diseases. This made me want to research more why there were so many articles and medical professionals believing that IBS is a disorder brought on because of a person’s mental health. I now know that there are so many chemicals and genes at play with irritable bowel syndrome that it can impact how a person perceives pain, responds to discomfort, reacts to situations, etc but none of that is within a person’s control. It is a true illness that presents physical pain and suffering. And in many individuals, emotional pain and suffering.
IBS is very poorly understood by everyone, including the medical community and a large number of patients. There is a ton of conflicting information that patients and caregivers are given and understandably, given the desperation, many people do whatever could to conceivably help their situation. And when those things they read on the internet or hear from a friend of a friend who knew someone with IBS don’t help, it can cause even more frustration and feelings of hopelessness.
I am learning that just as it takes a very special gastroenterologist to manage and understand my inflammatory bowel disease, it takes a special kind of GI to help a person manage and understand how their IBS is impacting them so they can receive the best quality of care. Someone who doesn’t understand your history and all of the trial and error that has probably ensued since your diagnosis (with foods, medications, lifestyle changes, etc) will have a hard time really helping you, in my opinion. Obviously, we all have to start from scratch with doctors at points, but establishing that relationship and really having someone who you feel is on your side and really gets it the best they can is really helpful. In addition, it always gave me hope when I felt like my physician and I were working together to find the best course of action.
I appreciate you reading some of the common misconceptions/stigmas associated with IBS that I have had. It is because I have decided to become educated through quality resources that I now know those things I once believed to be true, are not at all accurate.
We need more accurate awareness and resources for IBS available!
Are there any other myths about irritable bowel syndrome that you feel should be debunked or at the very least, discussed among the community? We always love input from our fellow community members.