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Why Most Men Don’t Talk About Their IBS

IBS is an embarrassing topic to talk about for many obvious reasons. However, I believe there is a reason why most men, including myself, don’t like to talk about their IBS in public. The reason is because doing such a thing would be to admit or show weakness, which is hard for many of us men to do. Growing up, I was raised by male figures (both related and not related to me) who taught me to always show strength and fearlessness. My interpretation of that was to never really talk about my pain or sadness, and to accept life the way it is (pretty much). This understanding was a result of always getting belittled or told to “suck it up” every time I complained about pain I was having. Thus, I grew up caring about what other people thought of me whenever I showed any hint of weakness.

Suffering in silence

Now, some of you might already know that I created a YouTube channel to raise awareness about IBS, so you would think I’m contradicting myself right now. However, being this courageous to speak up about my IBS didn’t come easy at first. It took me a long time to open up about my IBS because I was afraid of being perceived as someone who was complaining all the time, or as a man that was weak and incapable. If one is truly open about their IBS and how it makes them feel, you will certainly get a sense of their weaknesses, and that was not an easy thing for me to accept.

Many men have been brought up with the psychology that always being strong, never crying, and showing little to no emotion was normal, so we tend to keep our pain bottled up inside. We don’t always know how to allow ourselves to feel vulnerable without being defensive at the same time because that skill was never instilled in us as children. So instead, many of us have had to suffer in silence.

Being an advocate

After a while, I learned how to grow out of that “always be macho” mentality because my suffering, along with many of yours, outweighs the significance of my insecurity. After experiencing what I have with IBS, and hearing many of your stories, I knew that all that macho-manliness had to go out the window for the sake of raising awareness and doing what’s right for those with invisible illnesses. Being an advocate and some sort of support system for those who need it has become more important to me than being afraid of showing or admitting my weaknesses.

I understand I am not most men, and I wrote this article in a somewhat subjective manner, so I cannot speak for all men. However, based on my experience of being a man and having been around many circles of men, many of us were raised in a similar fashion. It’s important that we’re careful with how we teach this concept to the next generations of boys because we don’t want more men to keep bottling up their emotions until it destroys them. Otherwise, we’ll never get a real and authentic understanding of how IBS affects men in general. IBS is a very serious chronic condition, and it negatively affects that quality of lives of millions of people, so this illness is truly no joke. I believe speaking up is part of doing what is right. Overall, men need to be more vocal about how debilitating IBS can be, without fear of being vulnerable to their peers.

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

  • jaeger91
    1 year ago

    Thank you, HessP, for opening up and exposing your vulnerability in order to help educate others about IBS. We need advocates like you. Thanks for your bravery and willingness to share.

    I completely agree that it is difficult to speak up about this illness. There’s a stigma attached to it because of it being about digestion issues. Bathroom problems are TMI for most people. And because it’s a “functional” disease. Many think if it isn’t harming your body, what could possibly be your gripe? It is challenging to take flak from others about something so personal and painful, especially when that causes added stress. And stress is a huge trigger we’re trying to avoid.

    The idea of sucking it up and being tough is not unique to males. Women often have to do the same in order to be taken seriously, especially in the workplace. I can remember, while growing up, my own mother telling me, “Fix yourself up a little and maybe you’ll feel better.” Translation: “Quit whining. Put on some lipstick and a smile, and act like you’re fine.” Even the pain rating scale in the doctor’s office seems to suggest we should toughen up. If 10 is the worst pain imaginable–childbirth, been there, done that, times two–and IBS pain isn’t a 10, then suck it up.

    For anyone, regardless of gender, to speak up about IBS, it takes courage and commitment. Thanks to all those who have found both.

  • HessP moderator author
    1 year ago

    I agree with everything you said, jaeger91! Speaking up is challenging and certainly takes a lot of courage. I think there’s power in sharing stories, which is why I also commend those who do it.

    How would you feel about sharing a story with the IBS community? Here is the link, in case you’re interested: https://irritablebowelsyndrome.net/stories/ . There is no pressure at all, but if you ever would like to share, then please feel free anytime. We would love to hear more from your perspective. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. Looking forward to hearing more from you. – Hess, IrritableBowelSyndrome.net Team member

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