Why do we take heart in the IBS struggles of celebrities?

One of the most popular pages on our main IBS site relates to IBS in celebrities.  From Tyra Banks through to JFK the list of sufferers offers a fascinating reminder of just how many people suffer with the condition.

Whilst dwelling on the popularity of the page a few issues arose, in particular why does it matter?  Was it just another case of celebrity intrigue, or was there something a bit deeper about fellow sufferers seeking this information out.

In the end a very clear picture arose.  The private nature of IBS, means that rarely do we come across or talk to fellow sufferers.  Even if we do discover that an acquaintance suffers with IBS, while you may discuss some of the issues and share a few tips, it is rare for prolonged conversation to ensue.  IBS has never made for great table talk.  The reason we felt that the it was so important, was our need for empathy.


'Empathy is the ability to see the world as another person, to share and understand another person’s feelings, needs, concerns and/or emotional state.'

While we all may understand the term, few of us stop and consider just how important it is to know that others understand what we have to endure.  IBS is silent, invisible and hard to talk about.  IBS is often derided and misunderstood.  

Some sufferers endure relentless pain, while others may have to base their entire life around the condition, which may include missing many of the pleasures others take for granted.  It is one thing to endure a condition, however it is another thing entirely to endure a condition alone and without anyone having the slightest understanding of the nature of your symptom.

Thus when a celebrity comes out and admits they have IBS, they do tremendous good for fellow sufferers, by drawing attention to the condition and more importantly empathizing with people who rarely receive genuine understanding.

IBS sufferers encounter many wonderful people who do tremendous work, however if they do not actually suffer with the condition, they can never truly feel and understand the nature of IBS.   This is not to diminish their kind attempts, it merely reinforce the importance of celebrities who bravely admit the condition.

We do not use the term bravely without due diligence.  Many sufferers struggle to tell loved ones, so for celebrities to come out and offer their support, is kind and appreciated.  IBS is certainly not something which could be used to assist a career.


In conclusion we feel that whatever feelings we may hold about celebrity, good or bad, it is deeply appreciated when they come our and offer fellow sufferers a touch of empathy.  Below we have included a great video on empathy, a link to a very interesting test to see if you are a good at empathy, and we finish with a brief discussion on the importance of empathy in our lives.

Empathy is a term that is often misunderstood. This page attempts to describe 'empathy' and suggest ways that we can become more empathetic towards others. Empathy is perhaps the most advanced of all communication skills.

Empathy is a selfless act, it enables us to learn more about people and relationships with people - it is a desirable skill beneficial to ourselves, others and society.   Phrases such as ‘being in your shoes’ and ‘soul mates’ imply empathy - empathy has even been likened to a spiritual or religious state of connection with another person or group of people.

I call him religious who understands the suffering of others.

Mahatma Gandhi

Empathy is intuitive, but is also something you can work on, intellectually.

Tim Minchin

There is an important distinction between empathy and sympathy.

We offer our sympathy when we imagine how a situation or event was difficult or traumatic to another person, we may use phases like, ‘I am very sorry to hear that’ or ‘If there is anything I can do to help…’, we feel pity or sorry for the other person.  

This is how many people would react to the famine example above, there is nothing wrong with sympathy, and it can help to offer closure.  Perhaps by sending a donation to a charity to help with the famine we can think, ‘I’ve done my bit’ and forget about it.  To empathise is to feel how others feel, to see the world as they do.  Empathy with the people in the example above would require, for many of us living in the West, a leap of imagination.

Taken from: Skills You Need

Please note:  All blogs and IBS Health articles have been written by IBS sufferers for fellow IBS sufferers.

We respect and appreciate all other opinions and write with the sole aim of providing empathy, support and ideas for others who live IBS everyday. We do not write cause offence.

While we have the shop and other sites, we have always ensured that we are ferociously independent and that our sites are free to use.

Back Celebrity Empathy “When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.”   Ernest Hemingway