During her freshman year in college, Ryann Wilcoxon struggled with painful stomach cramps and diarrhea. An IBS-D diagnosis gave her answers about what was going on in her gut, but what Wilcoxon was still unsure about was how to talk to friends and family about her condition.
“I’m a fairly open person, but having to tell a college boy you need to cut your date short because of cramps and diarrhea is not something even I want to do,” says Wilcoxon, of Mobile, AL.
Any time she turned down fried food or asked about the menu before a social event, her friends would ask questions.
“We all ate in the school dining hall together, so they saw what I ate at every meal,” Wilcoxon says. “Some friends thought I just wanted to be skinny or had an eating disorder. In reality, I was trying to avoid the awful pain of abdominal cramps. It was hard to try to explain to them what I was dealing with.”
As she got better at managing her IBS-D, she became more comfortable talking about it. Now, in her 30s, Wilcoxon says she doesn’t worry when her IBS-D comes up in conversation.
“I’m very straightforward,” Wilcoxon says. “I just tell people, ‘I have IBS.’”
It’s normal to feel nervous when you start talking to friends, co-workers, and family about your IBS-D. But anyone who is dealing with a medical condition deserves support.
“In this day and age, people talk openly about heart disease, breathing problems, prostate problems, and even sexual issues,” says Brian E. Lacy, MD, PhD. “Mentioning the need to use the bathroom more frequently, or the need to take medications while out in public, should not be a big issue.”
It may take some practice, but there are ways can get the point across and gain confidence along the way.
1. Keep it general.
If you’re shy about saying certain words, stick to vague terms when talking about your IBS-D.
“You don't really have to say ‘IBS’ if you’re not comfortable explaining it,” says Lin Chang, MD.