'When my IBS is bad, I wish I was dead' – new study reveals full extent of condition

IBS symptoms can negatively affect a person's quality of life.
IBS symptoms can negatively affect a person's quality of life.

A recent study reveals that at least one in 10 patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) involving diarrhoea had suicidal thoughts when their condition was at its worst.

This study was published in the UEG Journal and involved 513 patients and 679 doctors. A quarter of the patients from the study indicated that their IBS interferes with their life to such an extent that they can’t enjoy a normal life, and 11% agreed with the statement, “When my IBS is bad, I wish I was dead.”

Both diarrhoea and constipation

According to research, IBS affects about 11% of all adults around the globe – a third of whom experience severe diarrhoea as the main symptom. IBS that causes extreme diarrhoea is called IBS-D. The International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD) states that diarrhoea associated with IBS can be recurrent or chronic and that a person may experience diarrhoea and constipation at different times. 

According to the IFFGD, the most troublesome symptoms of IBS reported by patients are:

  • Abdominal pain and discomfort
  • The sudden urge to have a bowel movement

The research also stated that one third of the patients reported constantly worrying about whether and when their IBS symptoms would flare up, and one in five mentioned that IBS negatively affects their work life. The research further stated that the patients spend at least 18 days per month feeling fatigued.

Apart from this study, the IFFGD also gathered some statistics from telephonic interviews. This revealed that at least one out of three IBS sufferers regularly loses control over their bowels, causing significant embarrassment. 

The research further revealed that one third of IBS patients feel their doctors don’t take the condition seriously enough and that they need more support.

Professor Hans Törnblom, lead author of the study, said, “IBS can be an extremely tough, emotional and difficult condition to live with and, in addition to dedicating resources to improve the physical burden of IBS, it is essential that care and investment is committed to providing psychological and emotional support for patients.”

He added that the majority of people with IBS often fail to seek medical help and there is dissatisfaction with the help they are currently receiving.

Stories from real people

The IIFGD recorded the following personal account of an IBS sufferer:

“I am a male and have had to deal with IBS-D for about 15 years. My first episode was at a football game, and I didn't make it to the bathroom in time. Very embarrassing and traumatic. I thought ‘What just happened?’ Since then I have had other episodes while travelling that have either been disasters or close calls. Anxiety plays a big role in triggering episodes. I worry about having an accident, which causes more anxiety, which causes more accident potential."

Do you suffer from IBS?

It can be difficult to treat the symptoms of IBS as there are often a number of different factors such as physical health, diet, lifestyle and mental health to take into account. Health24 lists a number of different treatment options.

Image credit: iStock 

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