Coping With IBS
Prepare for Situations
Coping with IBS also takes some preparation and courage. "You don't have to be afraid to go out," says Jacks. She says people may feel more comfortable if they do a little research before going to an event. "Know where the public restroom is."
For instance, if you're going to a wedding, concert, or movie, sit at the back or end of the row for easy access to the facilities. If you go to a dinner, find out what's on the menu so that you can eat beforehand should the fare be something that would be disagreeable.
Accepting embarrassing situations may also help, says Jacks. "You have to be honest and say, 'Sorry, but I have an illness.'"
She adds: If you don't tell people, they may imagine reasons for your behavior that are stranger than IBS.
And remember, it's human to have embarrassments. Situations may not be as bad as you think. You may find other people have not noticed your trips to the bathroom or that they're dealing with their own awkward issues.
"I encourage people to talk to their friends about their condition, and then they find often that (the friend) has, for example, an eczema that she's embarrassed about," says Mary-Joan Gerson, PhD, a psychoanalyst and family therapist at the Mind Body Digestive Center in New York.
Try to Reduce Stress
Meditation and other stress management techniques may also be valuable in dealing with uncomfortable situations.
"When you start to get that panic feeling, you can go into that other state of consciousness," says Gerson, noting that regular practice of things like meditation can help you even if you're in the middle of a meeting. "If you do meditation as a practice, you can take a couple of deep breaths and get yourself into something like that different perspective."
If you still have trouble dealing with your condition, see a therapist, advises Gerson. She and her husband, Charles Gerson, MD, a gastroenterologist, worked with 41 patients who received both psychotherapy and standard medical care. In two weeks, the patients reported a 50% improvement in symptoms.
Psychotherapy is part of an approach called behavioral therapy. Other types of this treatment include relaxation therapy, biofeedback, hypnotherapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy.
Indeed, there are many ways to cope with IBS. Hiding is not a good option.
Roberts says people who avoid going out because of their fear get to a point where ''they feel they can't do anything,'' he says.
"You can cope," Roberts says. "It's a matter of trying to live with your symptoms rather than having your symptoms take over your life."