Grieving multiple losses: Experiences of intimacy and sexuality of people living with inflammatory bowel disease. A phenomenological study.
Fourie S., Norton C., Jackson D., Czuber-Dochan W.
AIM: To explore patient experiences of intimacy and sexuality in those living with inflammatory bowel disease. DESIGN: An interpretative phenomenological study guided by van Manen's framework. Thematic analysis was conducted through interpretation and reflection on four existential domains: body, relationships, time and space. METHODS: Data were collected during 2019-2021 from 43 participants via face-to-face or telephone interviews, as well as anonymous collection of narratives submitted via Google Forms. RESULTS: Four themes were identified: Sexuality as lived incompleteness was the overarching theme representing the essence of the experiences of intimacy and sexuality. This theme covered the four main themes: Otherness of the body, Interrupted connectedness, Missing out on life fullness and Fragmented openness and each corresponded to an existential domain. Intimacy and sexuality are negatively affected by inflammatory bowel disease, with impact on quality of life. Patients experienced grieving multiple losses, from body image and control, to choice of partners and future opportunities. The four domains were difficult to separate and a close inter-relationship between each domain was acknowledged. CONCLUSIONS: A model was developed to draw new theoretical insights to understanding the relationship between sexual well-being and psycho-emotional distress similar to grief. IMPACT: First qualitative study to explore intimacy and sexuality experiences of those living with inflammatory bowel disease. Illness impact on sexuality has negative psycho-emotional implications as a result of losing the old self and capacity to have the desired relationships/sex life. A theoretical model was developed in an attempt to illustrate the close relationship of intimacy, sexuality and psycho-emotional well-being. PATIENT OR PUBLIC CONTRIBUTION: Patients were involved in the study design.