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Ostomy Psychological Challenges

As with many health related concerns, ostomy procedures can cause a significant effect on the individuals psychological and social outlook. Feelings of frustration, lowered self-image, challenged function, and grief may affect their life and that of those around them.


Ostomy Surgery - surgical procedures can be frightening especially when the procedure affects  a primary function, or may even be just in time to prevent death or debilitating disease. Individual response to the news and procedure may result in relief,  devastation, or any variety of adaptation. Patients and their loved ones may need assistance in coping with the procedure and resultant care needs.


Self-Image - changes to appearance, function, and care may cause the individual to feel a sense of loss or grief. This type of procedure is life-altering and often will be viewed as a less traumatic alternative than disease or death. The rehabilitation process should include allowances for the patient to discuss, vent, and learn to cope with this change.


Self-Care - patients will have a better chance of coping and dealing with their ostomy procedure after being given an understanding of the procedure and the care they will be performing. Once practiced, this increased awareness will afford the patient more control over their situation.


Relationships - personal and business relationships may not need to be affected by a patients' ostomy procedure. Some close companions and work associates may need to know in case of emergency; however, it is often better to share the information with supportive individuals. In the case of intimacy, if the relationship already exists then it is important for the partners to openly communicate about the affect the ostomy appliance may have. If the patient is dating then the ostomy appliance should be discussed prior to intimacy.


Psychological reactions to the ostomy procedure and appliances

The four common stages of psychological reaction to an ostomy procedure are shock, denial, acknowledgement, and resolution. Shock typically lasts a few days and results in difficulty for the patient processing the information. After overcoming the initial shock, the patient may employ wishful thinking that it may not be really happening. When the patient begins to acknowledge and deal with the situation, they may still be frustrated, agitated, or depressed. Finally, the patient begins to logically deal with the situation and establish new habits to deal with their condition.