Coping With IBS
There are other sources of support if you don't feel comfortable talking with people you know. There are doctors, nurse practitioners, therapists, and dietitians who specialize in IBS and can give you valuable feedback.
Ask your doctor if he knows of any IBS support groups. The IBS Self Help and Support Group has meetings online at www.ibsgroup.org. You can also go to WebMD's Digestive Disorders IBS Support Group, which is available 24 hours a day.
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."