Is IBS All in Your Head?

by | Mar 18, 2020 | Healing | 0 comments


If so, you’re not alone. Unfortunately, many people with IBS have gotten this message throughout their healing journey. They’ve heard it from doctors, family, friends, and co-workers. Today, I’d like to address that statement head-on. Could IBS be all in your head? 


Despite what you’ve heard or been told, and whether you think about the phrase literally or figuratively, IBS is not all in your head. IBS symptoms are digestive symptoms that literally happen in your gut. The presence of very real physical symptoms automatically nullifies the statement that IBS is all in your head.

If we take “it’s all in your head” figuratively, it might imply that your IBS symptoms are not real, that you’re making them up. Why would anyone make up having IBS? Of all the illnesses to feign, why IBS? 

If the person telling you your IBS is all in your head doesn’t think you’re faking your symptoms, then what else could they mean? Well, “It’s all in your head” could also imply that you somehow have control over your digestive symptoms. If your IBS symptoms are all in your head, then perhaps you could simply think differently about those symptoms and — voila! —  your IBS symptoms would simply go away. Ha! If only it were that simple.


In short, being told (either explicitly or implicitly) that your IBS is all in your head is not only invalidating, it is also insulting. If you have ever gone to a physician or health-care practitioner who gave you the message that your IBS is all in your head, I apologize on their behalf. 

And now, let me answer the question once and for all: Is IBS all in your head? No, IBS is not all in your head, but it’s not not in your head either. The truth is, IBS is difficult to localize to a specific part of your body because the part of the body generating the physiological symptoms is not actually malfunctioning. That may sound strange, but it’s true. 

How is it possible that the part of your body making you so miserable isn’t actually doing anything wrong? Your digestive symptoms are your body’s way of managing something — in coming blogs and videos, I’ll talk more about what that something is — by altering digestion. When your body is creating your IBS symptoms, it is likely linking up with your Autonomic Nervous System. Your brain and your ANS are always working together to ensure your survival. And, as it turns out, part of your ANS is housed in your gut! So, IBS and other digestive problems are a function of a complex interaction between multiple systems in your body (in other words, definitely not just in your head!). 

To learn more, visit the Don’t Hate Your Guts website where you can sign up to have weekly blog posts and the video of the week sent straight to your inbox. You’ll also receive updates about the exciting webinar series I’m about to launch. You can also watch this week’s video just below.

Don’t hate your guts. Instead, learn to heal your body. 


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<a href="" target="_self">Dr. Jennifer Franklin</a>

Dr. Jennifer Franklin

I'm a somatically-oriented, mindfulness-based psychologist specializing in helping people to heal and recover from functional medical problems and to resolve anxiety, panic, trauma, attachment wounds, and relationship difficulties.