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Mental health

Having a stoma can have some significant physical effects on all aspects of life, including diet, exercise and sexual relationships, as well as many other areas. However, aside from the physical implications, having a stoma can also have a severe effect on mental health. Anxiety, depression, body image issues and low self-esteem are a few of the common mental disorders that ostomates can suffer from. 

Mental health is hugely important, and with 16 million people in the UK experiencing a mental illness, you certainly aren’t on your own if you’re struggling to cope mentally with your stoma. 

Body image issues

According to ColostomyUK, nearly two-thirds of ostomates say their body image got worse after their stoma surgery. These stats show just how common the problem is, so if you’re struggling to cope with your body image post-surgery, you’re certainly not alone! Perceptions of being unattractive and feeling down about your appearance can quickly lead to people isolating themselves from social situations, this can often be the start of a downward spiral with regards to mental health.

It’s important to remember that your stoma bag is actually a potentially life-saving piece of equipment that should be celebrated.

Anxiety and depression

Anxiety is common amongst ostomates who find themselves constantly worrying about their stoma, whether it’s because of potential leakages, odours, pancaking, ballooning or not being able to access a toilet easily. Depression is another extremely common mental health illness that ostomates should be aware of. It’s extremely important to open up about how you’re feeling and any concerns you have about your stoma. By doing so, you can help to reduce your chances of developing a mental health illness as a result of your stoma.

Common signs that someone might be experiencing depression or anxiety include:

  • Continuous low mood or sadness
  • Feeling hopeless and helpless
  • Having low self-esteem 
  • Feeling tearful
  • Feeling guilt-ridden
  • Feeling irritable and intolerant of others 
  • Having no motivation or interest in things
  • Finding it difficult to make decisions
  • Not getting any enjoyment out of life

Getting support

The good news is, there are so many support groups out there for ostomates across the country. These support groups are designed to encourage you to open up about your stoma and how it is impacting you both physically and mentally. You can find your nearest support group here.

The NHS also has an excellent mental health service to provide support for those suffering from a mental disorder, you can find more information here.

If a support group isn’t your thing, you can always talk to your family and close friends about your stoma. The chances are your family members have been by your side before and during your stoma surgery, so they will be aware of all the details. If you’re feeling down or struggling a little bit with your stoma, you can always speak to those closest to you. Additionally, it can be helpful to let your boss know of your situation so that they can allow you some time off if you’re struggling to cope with your stoma at work. 

Whilst it’s always good to have a chat with people to get some things off your chest, there are some things that not everyone has a good answer to or knows how to help. In these situations, it’s definitely a good idea to speak to your stoma nurse to get some professional advice. 

Even though having a stoma is daunting at first, the most important thing to remember is that you aren’t on your own, there is always someone to talk to!

Some other support services that you may find helpful are:

GoldCare Delivery Service

Your Free, Brand Neutral, Stoma Care Home Delivery Service

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