How do you cope with the embarrassment of Crohn’s Disease? It’s an understandable anxiety and one that we hear often in our consulting room. There is no doubt that the condition produces a range of symptoms that can be both uncomfortable and embarrassing.
But that doesn’t mean your social life has to be put on hold or that you can’t enjoy a full and active life. Sometimes it is simply about being prepared and having a few tricks up your sleeve to cope with tricky situations.
Humour is a really great way of diffusing embarrassing situations, although it can take some practice to be able to laugh when your overwhelming instinct might be to want to run away and hide.
Flatulence is one of the uncomfortable symptoms of Crohn’s disease and it can be very embarrassing to pass gas in public and without warning.
Long-term Crohn’s disease sufferers have learned to make a joke of the problem on the premise that laughter can diffuse the awkwardness of a situation where people don’t know what to say or do.
Be careful to let people know, though, when humour feels inappropriate, such as at times when you are feeling really unwell.
Planning for unpredictability
Crohn’s disease is unpredictable and people often worry about having a flare-up of symptoms while they are socialising. If this happens, you may just want to go home so it’s a good idea to let friends know that this is a possibility so that they are forewarned and don’t think that you’re upset.
If you are able to drive yourself, it can make it easier to leave when you want to rather than having to wait for someone else. If you feel well enough to stay out, it can be reassuring to carry a few emergency items with you just in case, such as a change of underwear and baby wipes.
An emergency kit is also helpful if you are prone to episodes of incontinence. Some sufferers wear panty liners and make sure they carry spare underwear and extra panty liners, as well as baby wipes. For some people, odour-neutralising underwear, which uses carbon to filter out unpleasant smells, can provide an extra level of reassurance.
Going to the toilet can be another source of worry for people with Crohn’s disease, particularly public toilets or those without a fully enclosed cubicle.
It can be helpful to find alternatives close to places that you visit regularly – maybe at a friends house – and you may also want to download one of the smartphone apps that are designed to disguise toilet noises, for example with the sound of a hand dryer.
Many people with Crohn’s disease get into the habit of locating the nearest toilet as soon as they arrive in a new location so they are not caught out if they have a sudden bout of diarrhoea. Providing your doctor has OK’d it, it can also be helpful to carry antidiarrheal medication with you just in case.
Find a treatment that suits you
If you have been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, talk to us about the range of treatments that could help you to manage the symptoms, including corticosteroids, biologic therapies and immune modifiers.