Sometimes, people are not treated equally because they are different. They may be avoided because of an obvious physical illness, or judged because they engage in behaviors people do not like, or be excluded because of their religion or ethnicity. Others may hold negative views that are perpetuated by society-at-large, which can lead someone to feel isolated. When others think less of you because of who you are, or assume things about you because of your illness, you are being stigmatized.
Some GI symptoms – such as constipation, incontinence, diarrhea, gas, or indigestion – may lead you to feel stigmatized. Usually this happens because you feel embarrassed to be around others when your symptoms flare up. You may also think that others are looking down on you because of your symptoms. As a result, you may avoid attending social events. You might also avoid asking for help out of concern that others will think negatively of you. You may feel that your family and friends don’t understand you, and may try to keep your illness a secret from them to avoid feeling stigmatized. You may even avoid being around your loved ones altogether because you feel awkward. This can lead you to feel lonely and apart from those who could provide social and emotional support.
Feeling stigmatized can lead to feelings of anger, anxiety, or depression. You may internalize the stigma and think negatively of yourself because you have GI symptoms. You may also feel discouraged, which can make it harder to take care of yourself and improve your symptoms. This can lead your symptoms to worsen, creating a negative cycle that requires outside help to be broken.
Feeling stigmatized is often a topic of discussion in "talk" therapy. My Quality of Life (MyQOL) Toolbox has several tips that are used during therapy to help you address negative thoughts. You can test how accurate your thinking is, or learn how to let certain thoughts go.