The emotional side of an ostomy

There are many reasons for getting an ostomy. Some people with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis will opt for the surgery at the recommendation of their doctor, while others essentially have no choice because of cancer or another life-threatening illness.

Since an ostomy requires consistently wearing a pouch or bag on the body that collects waste, it can cause a great deal of emotional distress — both when deciding to have the surgery and in its aftermath.

People are worried that they’ll smell, they can’t wear the same clothes, they can’t wear anything tight-fitting and they won’t be able to participate in certain activities, like swimming or sports, that they enjoyed before. All of these thoughts and fears are misconceptions.

People who undergo an ostomy often experience a negative change in their body image that tends to diminish over time. It’s a grieving process they’re going through.

Another difficulty can be adjusting to seeing and feeling your stoma.

Studies show that by gaining familiarity and perceived control over their stoma, people who had an ostomy could, over time, regain a sense of being fully connected to their bodies.

For anyone struggling with the emotional or physical aspects of an ostomy looking for a close support group can be a good solution. There are also stoma therapists, who are happy to talk on the phone or meet with patients who are considering having an ostomy.