Introduction: Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) (Crohn disease or ulcerative colitis) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are 2 gastrointestinal (GI) disorders that are chronic, are debilitating, and diminish quality of life and have no known etiology. Persons with IBD and/or IBS share similar signs and symptoms, although IBS does not result in intestinal inflammation/alteration or increase one's risk for colorectal cancer as does IBD. The literature reports different mechanisms by which to cope with a GI disorder; however, few studies have focused on the life experiences/coping abilities from the perspective of those who have a GI disorder. As such, exploring the lived experiences of women diagnosed with IBD and/or IBS would provide information about coping strategies from the perspective of those affected, which in turn would be useful for other individuals affected by these conditions and individuals treating patients with GI disorders.
Purpose: The overall objective of this research was to explore the lived experiences of women diagnosed with the GI disorders of IBD and/or IBS. This article will focus on the strategies that women used for coping with such a diagnosis.
Methodology: Eight women diagnosed with IBD and/or IBS were recruited from a university in southern Ontario, Canada. Each woman completed a background questionnaire, an e-mail interview, and a face-to-face interview. These data were subsequently analyzed for trends using phenomenology to direct the analysis.
Results: Women reported using a number of strategies to help them cope with their diagnosis of IBD or IBS: positive attitude, support, controlling the situation and surroundings, distraction/ignoring the problem, relaxation techniques, and education/knowledge.
Conclusions: This research enables women to share their experiences concerning their coping strategies used in the management of IBD and/or IBS. The qualitative nature of this study provides the "voice" of women who have a GI disorder, which is often lacking in the literature, thus providing healthcare professionals with insight into the feelings and experiences of these women. The inability to understand the experiences of individuals with chronic conditions can act as a barrier in the treatment and interaction/rapport between healthcare professional and client.