The aim of this study was to explore experiences of undergoing a diagnostic workup in patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) at a unit for functional gastrointestinal disorders. Research has been sparse in addressing such experiences and the impact on well-being. Patients with IBS were invited to perform a workup of gastrointestinal tests. Of 120 patients who completed the tests, 20 were invited for an interview. Analysis of interviews was conducted through interpretative phenomenological analysis. One master theme emerged: validation of IBS experience inferred from three subthemes: the duality of suffering in IBS, coping with inflicted discomfort and pain, and capacity for resilience.
Patients reported long-term suffering from symptoms including poor management within the healthcare organization. Despite inconvenience associated with the tests, patients expressed appreciation for professional attributes such as attentiveness that were perceived as a sense of being cared for and seen as a “person.” During the workup, patients acquired greater knowledge of what IBS means, including knowledge about their own body functions and experienced relief that symptoms were not caused by any “dangerous” disease. Validation of IBS experience surfaced in the data implying that in such context, patients with IBS appear to find personal solutions to cope with everyday experiences and enhance autonomy.