Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Archive for December 3rd, 2010

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on December 3, 2010

    Shawn, twenty-one, always felt “inferior” to his older twin brothers, Timothy and Albert. They are both attending  Harvard Law School; they were both the best in their class, “in just about everything,” Shawn says. Shawn does not focus on comparing himself to his older brothers, but every major step in his brothers’  lives (e.g. getting into good colleges, doing well on the LSATS, winning lots of awards) is associated with Shawn having “terrible diarrhea and intestinal pains”, he says. Shawn went to a seasoned gastroenterologist who, after doing a series of diagnostic tests,  according to Shawn concluded “you need to be on major psychotropic drugs and go into major therapy,” “What did you think of Dr. Hertz’s assessment?” I ask. “Dr. Hertz has taken care of our family for three decades. I really trust him,” Shawn replies. “So you think that your mind is in distress and that is being expressed by your bowels?” I query.  “Yep,” Shawn replies, “but I don’t know what to do about it. I don’t belong in my family,” Shawn continues. “What do you mean?” I ask, thinking I know what he means, but I am curious how he is going to express his feelings in words. “I come from a family of high achievers. Both my parents are law professors. I don’t even like to read.” “You mean that you feel like an outsider in your family and that terrible feeling causes your intestines to be erratic?” I wonder aloud. “Well, I am not sure,” Shawn says, “all I know is that I really respect my parents. I respect Timothy and Albert. I just don’t feel like I belong with them. I am not that ambitious. I don’t know what I want to do with my life. I think in another family, that may be OK, but in my family, they think I am really strange.” “You mean to say that you don’t feel strange when you are with your friends, but you do feel that way around your family?” I wonder aloud again. “Sometimes I feel strange with my friends who seem to know their path in life, but when I am with my friends who are just as confused as I am, I am totally comfortable,” Shawn replies very clearly. “There is something very comforting about sharing anxiety about your future with your friends who are in a similar boat, huh?” I ask, knowing that anxiety likes anxious company. “Absolutely,” Shawn replies. “I wonder if your intestines work more regularly when you spend more time with your anxious friends,” I respond. “You know, I am going to have to try to track that,” Shawn says,  sounding curious about the relationship between his bowels and his feeling “strange”. Mind/body, at work, yet again.

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