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IBS and Introversion


Updated July 07, 2014

I came across this excellent article written by Jonathan Rauch and I want the whole world to read it! It is called:

Many of my private practice patients have heard my sermon on "introversion in our society". It is my personal belief, nicely echoed by Mr. Rauch, that as a society we extol the virtues of extroversion, leaving those of us who are introverts to feel that there is something wrong with us. In my opinion, this bias contributes to social anxiety and low self-esteem.

To illustrate this point, I went to an all-girls high school in which their was a flower shop right next door. It was a tradition that girls would buy corsages for their friends on their birthdays. You can imagine that the cheerleaders would have a gazillion corsages pinned to their uniforms, while the more introverted or shy girls would have only a few. This dynamic has certainly come into the digital age, where people feel badly if they don't have hundreds of facebook friends!

One of the things that I liked about Mr. Rauch's article is that he made a distinction between being shy and being introverted. In my experience, one can be shy and be an extrovert, or be socially confident yet still be an introvert. It is also my opinion that shy people can learn to be more comfortable in social situations. Introversion is more about personal preference - do you thrive in the company of others or do you prefer to balance your social time with time spent alone.

I do not know if anyone has found a direct link between introversion and an increased risk for IBS. What I do know is that feeling badly about oneself can lead to anxiety in social situations and that anxiety can exacerbate the severity of IBS symptoms. I thus declare that it is time to embrace your inner introversion! Introversion/extroversion should have no more significance than if you are left-handed or right-handed. You can significantly reduce your social anxiety if you let yourself be who you are without passing negative self-judgement. Try it! Let me know if it has a positive effect on your IBS.

If you struggle with significant social anxiety, visit About.com's social anxiety disorder site.


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