An exploration of adult male experiences of having irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) : a qualitative study

Campbell, Nigel (2015) An exploration of adult male experiences of having irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) : a qualitative study. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common functional bowel disorder thought to effect between 10-20% of the UK population. IBS places much demand on the NHS to fund and treat. It is twice as common for IBS to be found in women compared to men. IBS gender findings are limited. Little is known about how IBS is experienced by men. A qualitative approach examined in-depth subjective accounts of six men who had IBS via semi-structured interviews. Interviews were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). Findings were interpreted against existing IBS research and literature and using a biopsychosocial framework.

Participants experienced IBS as psychologically debilitating which often restricted activities, threatened relational identities and was isolating. Enduring experience of IBS seemed to compromise sense of self, constructs of masculinity and could foster despondency and helplessness with IBS. IBS symptoms frequently seemed unpredictable and illogical to cope with. Participants often conveyed ambivalence about seeking help for IBS. Many participants struggled to get their needs recognised and met in treatment with health professionals. Men had difficulties comprehending the ambiguities of IBS and need to accept and adapt to IBS. Disclosing IBS to others presented risk for incurring poor understanding, stigma and shame.

Counselling psychologists could adapt therapeutic styles to build containing, collaborative relationships that better engage men in treatment. Therapeutic interventions could be adapted to better empower men and more adequately respond to their needs with IBS. Subjective differences in IBS presentation and experience implied need to individualise therapeutic treatments. Counselling Psychologists could help men accept the given aspects of IBS and nurture awareness of management responsibilities and abilities to influence IBS. Therapeutic efforts could challenge any stigma or shame about having IBS. Counselling Psychologists could facilitate efforts to maintain a valued sense of self and promote psychological well-being rather than specifically seeking a cure.

CampbellNigel - DProf - Final thesis 2015_Redacted.pdf - Published Version

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