If you have been diagnosed with a gastrointestinal (GI) disorder, you know all-too-well how anxiety-provoking, uncomfortable, embarrassing, and depressing these conditions and the associated lifestyle can be. Many people clearly recognize the physical concerns that occur with a gastrointestinal disorder. However, most don’t consider the psychological aspects, which can (perhaps surprisingly) be far more distressing and debilitating. Gastrointestinal disorders affect more than one in five Americans and include conditions such as Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn’s Disease, and IBS.
Here are a few scenarios that likely sound very familiar if you have a GI problem:
- Going to public places and looking for restroom locations immediately
- Strategically planning where to sit on airplanes (hello, aisle seat!)
- Being in a car for prolonged trips, or a train without restrooms on board…
- Anxiety over not knowing where the restrooms are or how many restrooms will be available (which is worsened if the place is crowded and only has one to two restrooms)
- The discomfort and embarrassment of having to excuse yourself multiple times at social outings
- Pulling over and running (literarily) into public places to use the restroom
- Lomotil, lomotil, lomotil…
- Questioning whether you should even leave your home at all
All of the above are due to the physical discomfort of having to frequently and urgently go to the restroom. However, what worsens the physical symptoms is the psychological distress. Perhaps home has become a place of solitude and comfort because it is “safe” – meaning, open access to a bathroom and an environment that is free of judgment regardless of how many times you “go.” However, it is likely you are not doings the things you would like to and not living the life you want, thereby letting your GI problem physically, mentally, and emotionally control you.
While there is very little your doctor can likely do to cure you of the physical aspects of a gastrointestinal disorder, living with the psychological distress is an option. In fact, the effects of psychological, social, and behavioral factors in gastrointestinal disease have received considerable clinical attention and most research suggests that psychological factors can both cause and aggravate flare-ups.
You are not alone in your experiences and the mental anguish that follows. Speaking to a professional, such as Tampa Therapy, who is non-judgmental is a lot different than talking to your friends and family about these concerns – sometimes, you just need an objective, unbiased person who will listen to you describe your GI difficulties and concerns without the fear of embarrassment that often happens in social settings. Psychotherapy is a very helpful tool that can be used to teach you ways to reduce stress (and therefore reduce the likelihood of flare-ups), cognitively manage related anxiety and depression symptoms while having a flare-up (and even some physical symptoms!), calm your mind, reduce intense emotions about your medical condition, and get you back to living your life in realistic, but satisfying ways.