Advice for family
Advice for friends and family
IBS is a complex condition that can manifest and interfere with a person’s life in various ways. The impact of IBS is not limited to the person diagnosed but can also affect their friends, family members, and partners. It can be quite distressing to see someone you care about go through episodes of pain and discomfort. Remember that you, as a friend, family member or partner, can have a significant positive impact in their life. Providing meaningful support can be challenging, especially if you know little about IBS or what it is like to live with it. Everyone has different ways of managing IBS, and it helps to be patient during the adjustment phase, where the person is still learning how to prevent and manage their symptoms. Consider the following suggestions as a place to start.
- Lend an ear. Actively listening to the person and their concerns is a good way to show that you care. It is also a good way to gain some insight into their condition in a way that is not intrusive, that is, letting them disclose their thoughts and feelings about their condition, rather than asking them unprompted (potentially bringing their attention to IBS when they prefer not to think or talk about it).
- Spending time with them or accompanying them to their doctor’s appointment. Having an illness such as IBS can be isolating (especially if the person prefers to keep their illness and symptoms to themselves). Sometimes just being present with the person can make them feel less alone.
- Developing your own knowledge of IBS. Going to the effort of expanding your IBS knowledge can foster a sense of care and commitment for the person diagnosed. It can also clear up any questions, concerns, or misconceptions you have about the condition. This website, as well as many others, offers free information and support on IBS. If you are unsure about the accuracy or credibility of an information source, then raise this with your doctor.
- Be wary of offering advice. It is not uncommon for people diagnosed with IBS and other gastrointestinal conditions to be swamped with advice and recommendations. Although it is usually well-intentioned, receiving unsolicited treatment advice can be frustrating –even more so when the advice pertains to ‘cures’ that have been debunked.
Taking care of yourself
Having someone close to you experience this condition can take an emotional toll on you, especially if you are setting your own feelings and needs aside to help the person. Remember to ‘check in’ on your own emotional health regularly. Chronic emotional distress can develop into a more serious mental health issue if left unnoticed. Don’t feel guilty about reaching out for your own support, whether it be to friends/family/partners, or a mental health professional.