To feel like work anxiety-induced IBS is ruining my life
ibsworkanxiety · 11/04/2021 18:20
I never had any issues with IBS until university. Sitting in a seminar with an awkward silence when nobody wanted to speak made me anxious that my stomach would start to rumble and everyone would hear (I know this sounds ridiculous). It developed into a fear that I would suddenly need to go to the loo during the seminar or develop a stomach bug mid-seminar.
Now at work the anxiety has gotten a lot worse and I'm pretty sure I now have IBS, triggered by anxiety. When I'm not working I'm completely fine. However, on work days I have to get up 3 hours early just so I have enough time to go to the loo. I typically have 4-5 bowel movements in those 3 hours. I don't really know if I'm forcing myself to go when I don't need to or whether the anxiety is making me go. I also restrict my food on work days and eat really blandly (e.g. plain porridge, plain toast) to prevent triggering it, even though I have no food intolerances. At work I put off eating my lunch as long as possible as I worry it will stimulate my digestive system.
However, none of that works as at work I always have a stomach ache and feel bloated. I am constantly hyperaware of my stomach and any rumbles it makes and it makes me feel so anxious. I work 12 hours and I spend the whole time counting down until I can go home and go to the loo. However, as soon as I'm out of work my stomach settles and I am fine.
This is so embarrassing for me to write but I'm just wondering if anyone has any advice?
WhWt · 11/04/2021 18:25
I don’t have any advice but I certainly feel your pain. Mine is ok at work, but I feel exactly as you describe when I need to travel in any way. Crippling anxiety and panicking about what if I need to loo, taking Imodium “just incase” and restricting what I eat to very plain food and plain water, even though I too have no food sensitivities. I’ll be absolutely fine as soon as I get where I am going, and interestingly, am much better if I travel alone. I don’t know how to make it any better, so I’ll be following your thread for any advice. Feel for you!
meecrowahvay · 11/04/2021 18:38
Have you tried peppermint oil (colpermin or the cheaper pharmacy variety)? Or buscopan or similar?
I'd also perhaps suggest speaking to your GP for a referral for CBT to manage your anxiety (or finding a private CBT practitioner if you can afford to go private).
HandyBendySandy · 11/04/2021 18:46
I completely sympathise! Your post reminded me of everything I used to feel and get anxious about, from going to a restaurant to going to college, and later in life, going to work. Especially with a 2 hour commute each way (I could tell you many a tale of bolting off the train to a bog at the next station).
Mine was mostly born of emetophobia as a very young child, to suddenly becoming equally paranoid about the bowel end as well when I was a teenager. I lived on boxes of immodium and spent every hour analysing every movement and twinge in my abdomen.
I am now 48 years old, and there are 3 things that helped me in this life of stomach obsessing;
- CBT when I was 17 - taught me about panic and anxiety and made me realise that many stomach symptoms are "just" anxiety and not a precursor to becoming ill at all
2. Anti-depressants - I had a few goes at these in the 90s, went without for 10 years or so until the problem came back, then started taking lofepramine in 1999 and have taken it daily ever since. It isn't a cure (and these days they'll probably prescribe citalopram), but it improved things about 80%.
3. The sensation of needing to "go" is often just a sensation - irritable bowel is irritable! I've found that I can break the cycle of worry-poop-worry-poop by distracting myself when I think I need to run to the loo. I discovered this by accident when in work meetings or on a train when I simply couldn't go at that moment - quite often the sensation would retreat on its own.
The other thing I've discovered over the last 30 years is that when the thing you most worry about actually happens - becoming unwell away from home (it happened to me in our campervan once!) - the world doesn't end. It's a bit grim and you feel the panic start to rise, but you just deal with it. And it ends, and you survive, and it was nowhere near as bad as you thought it would be. I thought I might refuse to go away in the camper again after that but I got over it!
I don't know if hearing about a middle aged dotty woman's experience of this - "disorder", or whatever it's called - is helpful or not really? Have you spoken to your GP about it? That was how I took the first step at 17.
HikeForward · 11/04/2021 18:47
Have you tried any medication for IBS or asked doctor for anti-anxiety medication (some antidepressants can help both)?
Or thought about trying for a job where you can work from home or move around eg community based so you’re not stuck in a room all day feeling anxious?
If you’re going to the bathroom multiple times before work maybe Imodium would help (both by calming your bowel and relieving the anxiety about needing the loo at work?)
guiltynetter · 11/04/2021 19:25
I really feel for you it's a horrible feeling. I used to have the same at work, I would work night shifts in peoples houses, and knowing the bathroom was right next to people who were asleep used to trigger my stomach and I would always get a dodgy tummy. The only things that worked was avoiding caffeine and sugar and making sure I had Immodium on hand to take, sometimes I think it was just knowing I had some Immodium rather than actually needing it. But I don't know if that's sustainable longterm ie every day at work for you.
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