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Maintaining a Healthy Social Life with IBD

Living with Crohn’s disease or Ulcerative Colitis presents unique challenges that can significantly impact a patient’s social life.

Most of these social challenges are closely related to periods of active disease and increased disease severity, which forces patients to adapt their lives to manage their condition.

One study published in the US National Library of Medicine revealed many of the concerns expressed by IBD patients that have a direct impact on their ability to socialize. These include:

  • Loss of bowel control
  • Feeling dirty and smelly
  • Producing offensive body odors
  • Unfulfilled potential in the workforce
  • Issues related to intimacy and sexual relationships
  • Fatigue

According to researchers, fatigue was the most prevalent concern among IBD patients, as this can affect their ability to work and socialize.

It is often the unpredictable nature of the disease that can prove the most challenging.  For example, a patient may suddenly experience a flare-up that is worse than usual or develop unpleasant side effects from either the disease or the medications which are difficult to manage.

Fortunately, biologic therapies can help patients enjoy more prolonged periods of remission and fewer or milder life-disrupting symptoms.

Tips to Navigate Through Life With IBD

These five aspects are the most challenging in living with IBD:

  • The stigma associated with IBD
  • Work and school environments
  • Managing relationships
  • Body image
  • Navigating social situations

Eliminating the Stigma

IBD patients often feel isolated and misunderstood. In many instances, they may feel as if others view or treat them differently because of their condition.

The best way to improve these feelings of isolation is to talk about the disease and educate friends, family, and coworkers about the challenges of living with this chronic illness and how patients are managing their symptoms.

Creating Suitable Work and School Environments

Going to work or school can be a stressful situation for many IBD patients, as it means leaving the comfort of their homes.

However, it is possible to enjoy and make positive advancements at work or school while managing the disease. Again, communication is vital to create a supportive environment where patients can feel accepted and secure.

It is essential for anyone living with IBD to recognize when there are too many negative aspects within their work or school environments that will inevitably affect their physical and mental health.

Here is a sample of things to look out for:

  • Physically demanding schedules or tasks
  • Lack of schedule flexibility
  • Unsupportive coworkers, supervisors, or managers
  • High-stress environments


Managing Personal Relationships

For patients with IBD, life can be a rollercoaster of physical, emotional, financial, and social complications, which can strain relationships over time.

Because of this, patients must surround themselves with positive people who care about their physical and emotional wellbeing and are willing to adapt to help manage their condition.

Body Image

How individuals feel about their physical appearance can have a profound impact on their self-esteem, mental health, and relationships.

For those living with IBD, the unpredictability of their conditions coupled with medication side effects, disease symptoms, nutrition changes, and even surgery can amplify any negative feelings about their appearance.

One way for IBD patients to improve their body image is to avoid comparing themselves to others who do not have the disease and instead learn to value themselves for their accomplishments.

Any patient who feels they need advice regarding the emotional effects of the disease should speak to their doctors and seek help in support groups.

Navigating in Social Situations

An IBD diagnosis should not prevent patients from enjoying life and social gatherings. With the help of biologic therapies, which could lessen symptom severity and frequency, along with some planning, Crohn’s disease and UC patients can live life to the fullest.

However, socializing with IBD requires some planning. Patients will do well if they remember to:

  • Create a map of bathrooms at their destination and along the way
  • Speak to your friends, family, and coworkers about the kind of support you may need when going out
  • Make a meal plan or check out restaurant menus ahead of time

At Altus Infusion, we believe in comprehensive treatments that view patients as individuals with unique needs.

While we know biologic therapies are revolutionizing chronic disease management and improving patient’s lives, it’s always important to also consider the emotional side.

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