THE EMOTIONAL AND SOCIAL TOLL OF LIVING WITH A FUNCTIONAL GASTROINTESTINAL (GI) PROBLEM

Living with a functional GI problem affects your emotional and social life despite your best effort for it not to. Here are six things common to people with functional GI problems:

  1. Having to deal with symptoms like acute pain and unpleasant, uncomfortable, and embarrassing symptoms is unpleasant at best and debilitating at worst.
  2. You can’t openly or easily talk about your functional GI problems because it’s culturally taboo to talk about poop, gas, or other digestive issues, so it’s hard to stay connected to and to feel supported by people who care about you.
  3. Functioning in everyday life with such symptoms requires some degree of behavioral modification—changing the way you do things. Your relationships might change. You might spend more time alone. You probably eat differently than you used to. There are many changes a person typically makes in order to cope with a chronic functional problem. Making even one of these changes based on an inner sense of “I can’t” instead of “I can” can give people a sense of being defeated. The more one makes these kinds of decisions, the more one feels compromised by the functional medical problem and feels a sense of loss and thus grief.
  4. The symptoms and all of the behavioral modifications one makes on a regular basis inevitably lead to psychological changes. Shifts in mood, the intensification of emotions, the emergence or heightening of anxiety, a sense of feeling more fragile, vulnerable, sensitive, and reactive are all possible and likely. Feelings of frustration, anger, sadness, grief, loneliness, hopeless, and despair can surface and persist. Depression and anxiety are frequently diagnosed in people with functional GI problems.
  5. Living with a functional GI problem can easily lead one to be frustrated by, dislike, or hate the illness. The more one experiences loss—of time, social events/activities, control of one’s body and life—the more psychological negativity is directed toward the part of the body generating the symptoms.
  6. Functional GI problems like IBS are highly reactive to stress, making it challenging to work and manage responsibilities. On a good day you might have symptoms, and on a bad day you have really bad symptoms, and there may be few, if any days, on which you experience relief from symptoms.
  7. People with functional GI problems have to live with their bodies malfunctioning without any idea why their bodies are malfunctioning. Our minds are naturally oriented to making sense of things that we don’t understand. Not having clarity in response to the question “why is this happening” naturally leads our minds to conclude that we cannot stop the problem, and this can easily lead to feelings of fear, frustration, anger, hopelessness, helplessness, and powerlessness, contributing to the onset or exacerbation of anxiety and depression.

The impact of a functional medical problem on one’s physical, emotional, and social life can be quite negative, even overwhelming. Supported by evidence from many research studies over recent decades, therapy offers a way to address these and other issues. Therapy can also help you heal your body. Click here to start therapy now.