Advice for Teens
The symptoms of IBS can at times be a disruption to your school and social life. Having to go to the toilet regularly can interrupt classes and, if they’re bad enough, cause you to miss class altogether. You might also feel fatigued and have issues concentrating.
It can help to let teachers and school administrators know that you have IBSso they can help support you as much as possible. Your doctor can help with this by writing a letter to your teachers/school explaining what your condition is and the ways it might impact you. Most schools have a disability coordinator that can communicate with teachers on your behalf. Your IBS may flare up unpredictably and your disability coordinator can work with your teachers to manage your schoolwork when this happens. If your symptoms are particularly severe or frequent, you may also consider flexible schooling options (e.g., distance education). This can allow you to keep on top of your schoolwork even if you’re not in the classroom.
Many people (including your friends) don’t know much about IBS. Letting them know what it is and how it affects you can help them understand what you’re going through and make you feel less alone. The symptoms of IBS are often unpredictable, so keeping the condition a secret can be stressful and exhausting –feeling like you don’thave to hide it can make a big difference. The symptoms of IBS can be embarrassing at times and you might feel hesitant about discussing symptoms. You don’t have to go too much into the specifics if you don’t want to. There are also plenty of resources available online that you can direct your friends to if you don’t want to spend too much time talking about your symptoms. Support groups for young people with chronic conditions (e.g., ChiPS, www.rch.org.au/chips/) are a great way to find other young people going through the same thing.
Transitioning from a paediatric doctor to an adult doctor
Depending on your age and time of diagnosis, you may at some point need to transition from a paediatric (i.e., child) to an adult doctor. This isn’t always easy, as you may have built up a relationship with your paediatric doctor over many years. The dynamic between you and your doctor changes after transitioning to adult care. You will find that your doctor’s enquiries are no longer directed at your parents but at you. You will also likely take a bigger role in managing your appointments and medications. If you are unsure or worried about transitioning to adult care, then discuss this with your doctor. They can help make the process easier and expand your knowledge regarding your medical care, making you feel more confident about taking a leading role in your treatment.
Body image issues
IBS can feel embarrassing at times. The signs and symptoms (e.g., diarrhoea, constipation, bloating) can cause you to feel anxious about your body and how it is perceived by others. It is important to discuss these feelings with someone you trust, often taking to a partner, friend or family member is enough to put things into perspective. If your body image concerns persist, speak to your doctor.