a person unknowingly pointing at themselves

Am I Causing My Own Symptoms?

Last updated: April 2022

Being told “I think your symptoms are psychosomatic” by a member of your healthcare team, can feel like a massive kick in the teeth.

So, you’re saying, you think my pain is all in my head?!

Is stress a trigger for Crohn's or UC?

Well, that’s not exactly it, because psychosomatic doesn’t mean your pain or symptoms are not real – it IS still a physical thing. Psychosomatic just means that the symptoms are caused or aggravated by mental factors, such as stress or anxiety etc.

Many people living with inflammatory bowel disease say that they have identified stress as a trigger for them, and we also know that know there are big links between the digestive system and the brain.

So, it got me thinking...

The cycle of anxiety and using the bathroom

If you are panicking that you might need to use a toilet when you go out, that can cause a lot of stress and anxiety. It makes sense to me that if you are getting stressed and anxious, that could actually contribute to you then needing to go when you are out.

Then, you worry about it the next time you are going out because it happened last time, which could lead to it happening again. So, then you begin to believe that it will always happen, so you always panic, and that’s where the cycle begins! The human brain is wired to find patterns, so sometimes we come to incorrect conclusions because of our incessant need to constantly link one thing to the other!

Convincing myself that a bath helped me use the bathroom

When I was in my teens, I was certain that running the bath helped me defecate. The reality is that it probably only actually ever happened a few times before my brain decided that this was a fact. It probably didn’t even happen a few times in a row.

I would bathe at around the same time each day, so it may even have just been the time of day! But, if I felt bloated or uncomfortable, and I couldn’t go to the toilet, then I ran a bath, and the majority of the time, I could then go!

It also seemed like the ideal time to go to the toilet because you were about to go get clean straight after! When I look back at it now, I do not think that the bath running was, in any way, actually likely to make it easier for me to go to the toilet! But, that is what my brain had told me, and it had worked, so does it really matter?

Being prepared to help ease the worries

I guess the point I am trying to make is that if we are aware of what’s going in our bodies and our minds, then we’re in a better position to fix it. I’m not saying that whenever you need to go to the toilet when you are out, that’s because you were worried about it in the first place, but it could be a factor.

I think it was a factor for me and I dealt with it by preparing to be in that situation; even preparing to have accidents! If I knew that I could sort myself out if I was in the worst-case scenario, then it eased that initial worry.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The InflammatoryBowelDisease.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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