While IBS may begin as a physical condition, it rapidly becomes a psychological condition. The primary emotion behind the psychological breakdown is fear. Fear of embarrassment dominates the psyche. The thought ‘If I were to have an accident now, then the humiliation would be unbearable’.
This is an understandable and rational emotion. It is only natural to wish to be seen to be in control of your own bodily functions. No one wishes to be the person who publicly humiliates themselves. This sense of fear is felt most keenly in the pit of the stomach, with the end result being a self fulfilling prophecy. Once you start to stress about losing control of your bowels - you start to lose control of your bowels.
When in situations where you feel trapped or embarrassed to ask to visit the bathroom, the sense of fear increases, followed by the uncomfortable feeling that you need the bathroom. Over time many IBS sufferers simply eradicate the situation which has created the fear.
This can mean, avoiding the metro, or public transportation, avoiding classroom or similar group activities. Whatever form this may take the net effect can result in ‘Avoidant Personality Disorder’. As a result of IBS rather than do the things you wish to do, your life can revolve around activities deemed safe. This include remaining in familiar areas, where you are aware of the location of the bathrooms. Socializing with limited groups of people who are aware of your problems and simply not living life to the full.
The negative psychological effects of IBS are endless and dwelling on them in no way helps the matter in hand. The staring point for psychological improvement is simply rationality. Much easier said than done, rational thinking opens the door to a new world of possibility.
The following pages take this idea further, and while it’s easy to be dismissive of such a simple construct, if you begin to unravel the strands behind your thought process, you will soon find that they are often utterly irrational and that your mind has in fact been leading you astray.
Learning to trust again
While overcoming the physical symptoms of IBS should be the first priority, the second should be the focus on gradually overcoming the psychological scars left by IBS. Very few people would have the mental strength to be unaffected by IBS. The sense of anxiety generated by IBS lives on long after the stomach reactions have subsided.
Taking a gradual and patient approach to the emotional rebuilding work necessary will ensure your long term mental health. When your symptoms are subsiding, gradually facing the scenarios which had previously caused you stress represents an opportunity to move on. For example, do not immediately throw yourself into a position which caused you such previous stress, such as pubic speaking, or travelling via the metro.
Instead, build your confidence, by proving to yourself that you are capable of keeping control. That with your improved diet, you are able to do things and go places, which previously seemed unimaginable.
Long Term Sufferers
New IBS Sufferers
Life Long Sufferers
Man needs difficulties; they are necessary for health.