Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is isolating to those who suffer from the two common forms, Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Symptoms such as diarrhea and bloating are embarrassing, painful, and can be so debilitating that they can prevent people with IBD from even leaving their home. Some treatments, such as medications that have visible side effects or that suppress the immune system, can increase the feelings of isolation.
Joining a support group can help you cope with the problems caused by gastrointestinal disorders. Support groups will vary depending on the needs of the members, and can be found both online and off.
Offline support groups can be a beneficial part of a treatment plan. Many people with IBD don't know anyone else with gastrointestinal problems, and therefore have no one with whom to share their experiences. Meeting people with similar problems can help lessen the feelings of isolation and loneliness.
With the advent of Internet message boards and chat rooms, a whole new world has been opened to people with IBD who may be too ill to attend a "real-life" support session. Other advantages of Internet support groups are that they are global and open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. A person up late at night with the prednisone munchies can log into a chat room or forum and find someone to talk with.
Either online or offline, a support group is a place to learn about treatments, physicians, symptoms, and common troubles. No matter what the problem is, it's likely that someone in the group has experienced a similar situation and can offer empathy and advice.
A list of online support groups for IBD, colon cancer, and pelvic pouch surgeries can be found here. To find an offline support group in your area, check the classifieds in the local paper, call hospitals, ask your physician, or check with one of the organizations below:
IBD Support Groups:Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America
386 Park Avenue South
New York, NY 10016
CCFA Chapters and Events
Ostomy Support Groups:United Ostomy Associations of America
P.O. Box 66
Fairview, TN 37062-0066
UOAA Affiliated Support Groups