IBS and Anxiety making school tough

<p>Hello, I am a transfer student who just started nursing school. I transferred to a school that is about 500 miles away from home. I actually transferred to this school last year but about 2 weeks in had to take a medical leave for the entire school year. I developed severe IBS. With the IBS, I developed an anxiety disorder and was not able to sit in any class for fear of getting sick or having extremely loud intestinal noises. While I took a year off, I focused on resolving my IBS. I went to a GI doctor and a nutritionist and by changing my diet to a modified paleo diet, I was able to almost completely eliminate any IBS symptoms. My anxiety went away when I became confident that I wasn’t going to get sick anymore.
With my new diet I was ready to go back to school in the fall. The first week was good. I was feeling pretty good, made it through all my classes. But come the second week, I was so sick to my stomach. I still went to class but all my symptoms from last year started to come back. My anxiety came right with it. Now, I can’t get my symptoms under control no matter how I eat. My anxiety has gotten so bad that I can’t concentrate on class and I can barely sit through class. I am constantly worrying about my classes and if I will get sick or not.
I went to the doctors and they prescribed me some anti-anxiety meds and I am also seeing a counselor for CBT but nothing seems to work. I am also trying to get in to see another GI doctor.
I really want to try and stay at school but it seems like the stress from these issues put on top of the stress of being at a new place far from home seems too much to handle. I think the best would probably to take another medical leave for a semester if the school allows another one and take that time to focus 100% on my health. I might even look into a school that is closer to home. I just feel so guilty that I can’t fight through this and my parents are pretty upset too. </p>

<p>Has anyone gone through something like this that can give me some helpful advice on what to do?</p>

<p>The Doc’s get the final word, but it seems clear that the anxiety is causing IBS not the other way around. The anxiety has likely been building for years and now has likely come to a head. Please consider talking to a therapist and taking meds if so recommended. Also consider that you are taking your mind to places that it was not built to go. Do you really want to be a nurse? I imagine the anxiety of real life nursing will dwarf anything that you experience in college. Your mind could be crying out not to be taken in such a direction.</p>

<p>^agree. Anxiety seems to be the real issue which triggers your stomach upset.
If your current meds aren’t effective, speak with your therapist. He/she may suggest an alternative med. </p>

<p>I don’t know how long you’ve been on the meds, but they take weeks to become optimally effective. </p>

<p>I also agree with sosomenza regarding nursing. I really don’t think it’s a career for people who have a hard time dealing with stress.</p>

<p>I am a nurse, and I have to agree that it can be a very stressful job. I hope the OP can get help to manage her IBS. I’m lucky if I can even get one bathroom break in 8 hours. If I was struggling with bathroom issues, I don’t think I could work a typical nurse job.</p>

<p>I have a family member with IBS, which I believe is stress/anxiety/PTSD related. It is a hard thing to live with, so the OP has my sympathy. Sounds like she needs to take another look at medications. I also would encourage her to search for some stress reducing techniques. My family member has really benefited from yoga and other exercise. Not a cure, but sure helps.</p>

<p>“If your current meds aren’t effective, speak with your therapist. He/she may suggest an alternative med.”</p>

<p>Or a different therapy.</p>

<p>Hopefuly the prescriber is a psychiatrist. If not, that is what I would suggest. </p>

<p>“I don’t know how long you’ve been on the meds, but they take weeks to become optimally effective”</p>

<p>As does the therapy.</p>

<p>Please don’t undervalue the role of the therapy.</p>

<p>I had very bad IBS when I was in my 20s, and my life became a whole lot easier when I left a laboratory job and got an editorial job. </p>

<p>In the lab job, knowing that I absolutely, positively couldn’t be in the bathroom when a timer went off and I had to perform a crucial part of an experiment was a major source of stress for me. In the editorial job, I could go to the bathroom whenever I wanted.</p>

<p>However, the editorial job was not, generally speaking, less stressful than the lab job. In fact, the editorial job involved much more responsibility and a much more demanding boss. But it was still a better job for me simply because it didn’t limit my access to a bathroom.</p>

<p>The point I’m trying to make here is that the situations that are stressful for people with IBS are not necessarily the ones that other people perceive as stressful. </p>

<p>Would nursing be a good career for you? I don’t know. But I do think that it’s not the overall stress of nursing that matters. What matters is whether nursing and IBS are compatible. The point that Nrdsb4 made, about the infrequency of bathroom breaks in typical nursing jobs, is important. (On the other hand, there may be atypical nursing jobs where opportunities for bathroom breaks are unlimited.)</p>

<p>My daughter has IBS/anxiety, though perhaps not as severe as yours seems to be. You can get a doctor’s certificate stating how this affects your health and life functions and then get services through the university disability resources center. Do this ASAP whatever you decide on for a major. My daughter has, for example, a private dorm room with her own bathroom. If she needs to, she can take tests at the testing center with clock stopped for bathroom breaks. If your needs are greater, they can increase the services available to help you succeed. The ironic part is that just knowing she has this support available decreases her anxiety and reduces symptoms so that she rarely needs to use the services.</p>

<p>I’m not sure if I had IBS in my twenties and thirties or irritable bowel but I do know that I suffered many of the same symptoms as the OP. I also suffered from anxiety from my early childhood on. The stomach issues and the anxiety became related and I worried constantly about the availability of a bathroom everywhere I went.</p>

<p>I will say this. I would have felt very defeated if I had let my issues limit my career goals in any way and I think that the posters here need to be careful about sending that message. </p>

<p>I became a teacher (bathroom breaks are very infrequent with very little privacy). Was i concerned about that aspect of the job? Yes, but I didn’t want my issues to dictate what I was able to do with my life.</p>

<p>OP. I second what the other posters say about finding the right doctor and the right medication for your anxiety. Getting that under control will have a positive effect on your IBS. Some anti-anxiety drugs are taken every day and take weeks to kick in but others are used for situational anxiety to lessen your symptoms. There are even some blood pressure meds that work to reduce your symptoms. Don’t give up on getting this under control.</p>

<p>Another strategy that helped me was to lose the shame around my problem. My friends and boyfriend (now husband) knew about my stomach issues and were always kindly helpful whenever i needed to find a rest room. We even joked about it and had a secret signal when i needed to find a ladies room ASAP. It was such a relief to let the people around me be my allies instead of trying to hide it. I even discovered that some of my friends suffered as well!</p>

<p>OP, please tell your doctor that your current meds are not helping. Some people try three, four or more different Rx meds before finding the right one for them. For me, Librax helps a great deal; it reduces both anxiety and intestinal spasms. I also encourage you to find a therapist with some knowledge of IBS.</p>

<p>Also, don’t hesitate to question the diagnosis if you haven’t been checked out for other possible problems. IBD (Crohn’s and Colitis) can have similar symptoms to IBS, but requires different treatment. If you haven’t had a colonoscopy you may want to ask your GI dr. if he/she thinks it would be appropriate.</p>

<p>The following may be TMI for most folks:</p>

<p>I have severe IBS and I sustained internal damage from an assault that makes bowel control extremely difficult. As a result, whenever I leave home I wear Depends. I’m now convinced that forcing myself to take that step, which felt pretty humiliating at first, actually reduced the frequency of emergencies since it reduced my stress over the potential embarrassment of an accident. Wearing something rather bulky like Depends does place some limits on wardrobe choices, but that trade-off is well worth it for the peace of mind. I keep a small tote bag in my car with extra Depends, wet wipes, and a pair of jeans, just in case. Again, feeling as if I have even a tiny bit of control over how I will deal with whatever happens makes me calmer.</p>

<p>If I have to travel, I limit my diet and take Immodium along with the Librax. For long trips, it may mean I eat only Saltines and drink water until we arrive at our destination. The sudden caffeine withdrawal made me cranky, so I cut way back on dietCoke and rarely drink anything with caffeine now.</p>

<p>Our family doctor also suggested that I take a probiotic daily as well as a fiber capsule. When I started that, I increased my water intake, too. Lactose intolerance seemed to make matters worse, so I’m stricter about drinking/using only Lactaid milk.</p>

<p>I now have good days and bad days, rather than all bad days. To be honest, the bad days are still unpredictable which can cause problems. If you’re concerned about not ever being able to get the problems under control, but still are committed to nursing, you may want to look into eventually working in a doctor’s office or other environment where you can take bathroom breaks as needed instead of working on the floor of a hospital. If the cause of your anxiety is being away from home, rather than your course of study, consider if you’d be better off at a school in your home town.</p>

<p>I hope you can soon get the help you need.</p>

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<p>Okay, IBS *is *irritable bowel. I’m not sure what you are saying.</p>

<p>I get what you are saying about not discouraging the OP re: career goals, but I think it’s also important to be honest. Nursing in a traditional environment is not very compatible with IBS if symptoms cannot be controlled. Doctor’s offices no longer really hire nurses; they are hiring medical assistants instead. There are certainly areas of nursing which are not the traditional hospital staff nurse. Often, however, these positions require experience in, you guessed it, the traditional hospital nursing environment. So it’s really important for the OP to get counseling for the anxiety issues and possibly experiment with various medicine regimes before committing to going the nursing route.</p>

<p>I had ulcerative colitis for 6 years. I had to take off 2 years of college. I know exactly what you’re going through. Sitting in class with anxiety building up wondering if you’ll make it through class without needing to go to the bathroom. When you’re out you always subconsciously find all the nearest restrooms. Awful way to live.</p>

<p>I don’t agree with some other posters about which is causing the other regarding anxiety and IBS. While I’m no expert, I don’t think anxiety is causing your IBS symptoms. Maybe it’s stress from classes, but I wouldn’t classify it as anxiety. Unless you have a generalized anxiety disorder, I think your anxiety is related to your IBS. Once the IBS symptoms start up, then I understand why the anxiety would come. It’s a vicious cycle. What most posters don’t understand is that this isn’t a problem that just trying a different medication will fix.</p>

<p>I assume your GI doctor already gave you a colonoscopy. If not, I think that one is needed to make sure it is IBS and not Crohns/UC like someone else said.</p>

<p>I don’t think ruling out a career in nursing like some have stated is necessary at this point. Depending on what your doctor says, I don’t think it’s a bad idea to take another semester(or 2) to figure things out and get healthy. I wish you luck and I hope you get treated better.</p>

<p>I’m sorry–I can relate! I’ve had several bouts (3 lasting about 6 months each, and a few shorter ones) of IBS-D. It has gotten so bad at times that I couldn’t leave my house/had to wear diapers. Fear of having an accident caused even more anxiety. Each time I had it, it happened right after taking a round of antibiotics for another infection (like a sinus infection or dental work) Here are some things that helped me–taking large doses of fiber, yogurt/probiotics. I could never really connect it with any particular anxiety producing/traumatic event. When I was first “diagnosed” (15 years ago), the doc acted like it was all “in my head,” asked if my husband abused me, etc. (No.) (I’ve had some traumatic experiences, but they happened after I had IBS.) Last year I had a colonoscopy because I had been losing weight after having IBS D for several months. After that, the IBS went away–I believe that the prep, flushing out the colon for the colonoscopy helped “cure” the IBS that time. Other times the fiber and pro-biotics seemed to work. Sometimes I’m convinced this is a bacterial infection, because of the connection with antibiotics, but it does also seem to be connected to my nervous system–like an exaggerated fight/flight response. I get goosebumps/hair stands on end–then “it happens.” Sometimes I can prevent this by taking a few deep breaths and exhaling very slowly to “calm” my system. (I am also lactose intolerant and do not use milk products.) I wish some doctor would figure this out–remember that they used to think ulcers were caused by “stress”–then found out it was a bacterial infection? I hope you can get the right kind of help that you need.</p>

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<p>What I meant to say was that I don’t know if I had IBS or what was referred to as a spastic colon. It was very non-specific.</p>

<p>Sorry, it’s been a long day.</p>

<p>I understand what you are saying about the incompatibility of hospital nursing and IBS. My concern is that we don’t really know if the OPs problems are long term or temporary. My issues subsided in my late twenties and disappeared by my early thirties. Coincidentally, I had a colonoscopy (my second) in my early thirties and my symptoms went away after that. My doctor told me it happens sometimes.</p>

<p>Mindfulness Meditation</p>

<p>http:// <a href=“http://www.nccam.nih.gov/research/results/spotlight/031912[/url]”>www.nccam.nih.gov/research/results/spotlight/031912</a></p>

<p>[Mindfulness</a> Meditation May Cut IBS Symptoms](<a href=“http://www.webmd.com/ibs/news/20110510/mindfulness-meditation-may-cut-ibs-symptoms]Mindfulness”>http://www.webmd.com/ibs/news/20110510/mindfulness-meditation-may-cut-ibs-symptoms)</p>

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<p>Ulcers are also often caused by overuse of NSAIDs. </p>

<p>I understand the feeling that it would be a shame for the OP not to go into nursing simply for the fact of having IBS and the possibility that it could resolve. The problem is going to be getting through nursing school, which is even less compatible with an unpredictable bowel problem than actual nursing is. I just don’t see this going well until she gets her symptoms under some kind of control. Nursing school and the early years of nursing where one is learning the profession are very, very stressful, and one really just doesn’t have time for frequent bathroom breaks. I think whether or not anxiety is causing the IBS or IBS is causing the anxiety is irrelevant to the immediate issue of nursing school, though it is significant for her long term prognosis. I have no doubt that the anxiety associated with her IBS is likely exacerbating it, until it becomes a rather vicious cycle. </p>

<p>I don’t know what the solution is here, but I wish the OP all the best. I think she needs some multifaceted therapy here which consists of diet changes, medication, and perhaps time with a therapist familiar with this disorder to help her with some coping mechanisms which can help her find some calm in her days.</p>

<p>My daughter is going through something similar, except she has constant nausea and vomiting. She withdrew from school last year, attempted to go back this summer and withdrew again. At this point she is just going to get a job and try to take one class at a time. I think the stress of school definitely contributes to the problem.
Go home, regroup, try to find something you can do to make you happy and follow up with your GI to make sure your physical issues are being addressed. There are many paths to success, not all of them are the traditional “go to 4 years of college and get a job”</p>