Avoiding the Doctor to Avoid Bad News
Did you ever notice that whenever the slightest thing feels off in our bodies, we automatically think the worst? Despite feeling this way before – fatigue, muscle aches, urgency – we just always think "but this time it could be different."
Why do we always assume the worst?
Ignorance is bliss... Right?
I've seen this a lot in my career as a health coach and as a patient. When symptoms start to arise, many patients choose the "ignorance is bliss" route and avoid calling their GI out of fear that it could be something terribly serious.
But, as you may have previously experienced, avoiding the doctor never leads to anything good.
If you have mild inflammation that is causing your symptoms, it will only escalate without medical intervention. If you have low iron that is causing fatigue, your levels will only continue to drop until you get lab work and decide on a supplement plan. And, if either of these examples is left untreated for an extended period of time, you may find yourself in a serious condition that requires extensive treatment and/or hospitalization.
Your mind can wreak havoc on your gut
You may be familiar with the gut-brain connection, but if not, I will summarize. Researchers have found significant evidence suggesting that irritation in the GI tract may affect the central nervous system (CNS) and trigger mood changes.
And, in turn, when our mood changes and we get anxious/stressed/depressed, we begin to feel physical symptoms in our gut. This vicious cycle continues and we become more mentally and physically ill the more we worry about our symptoms.
So, adding more anxiety and stress to our bodies only makes our symptoms worse. Despite it being terribly difficult to "just calm down" it's honestly the best thing we can do when feeling the onset of symptoms.
It's easy to become irrational
One "off" feeling can easily lead you down the rabbit hole of Google, and you go from having a minor stomach ache to thinking you only have two months to live. You automatically assume the worst, worried that perhaps it isn't "just Crohn's" and could be something more acute.
However, there is a high probability that it simply is IBD-related and that it isn't too serious. When I find myself spinning out of control with "what ifs", I like to write down what I know is true in order to be realistic about what is going on.
I will write down my symptoms, the fact that I had a good report from my recent lab work, that I am chronically low in my B12 so that may be playing a role in how I am feeling, etc. Writing down what you know is true makes it easier to stop yourself from assuming the worst and putting more stress on your body and mind.
Not worth avoiding the doctor in the long run
As you can see, assuming the worst when it comes to our IBD symptoms may be understandable, however, it does not benefit our mental or physical health.
The best thing to do when feeling the onset of symptoms is to contact your care team and start with the least invasive tests (blood work, stool sample, etc.) to get a better understanding of what is going on and then if it needs further examination, take the necessary steps. Just take a deep breath – it will most likely be ok!
Have you experienced joint pain as a symptom of Crohns or UC?