Why should I participate in a support group for Crohn's?

You may have supportive family and friends; however, there's nothing like sharing experiences with someone who knows firsthand what it's like to live with Crohn's. Support groups become important social, educational and support hubs for people living with chronic diseases. They become a safe place to ask questions and share concerns and feelings you may not feel comfortable discussing in other forums. Participants can find-or share-success stories for managing Crohn's disease. Just having a place to vent your frustrations on a bad day can be cathartic.

Support groups can also provide a fun, social venue to raise awareness and funds for Crohn's research. The Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America's Team Challenge, train patients, their family and their friends to run or walk a half marathon. Its Guts in Gear event prepares you to complete a lengthy bike ride. Sometimes, the best way to cope with chronic illness is to set a challenging goal; so why not raise money towards Crohn's prevention and treatment research at the same time?

What types of support groups are available?

With the advent of the Internet, it's become easier than ever to connect with others who have Crohn's. You can find numerous online, or virtual, support groups with active forums, discussion boards and local events. Virtual support groups are always open for business.

Of course, nothing compares with meeting face to face with others who share the Crohn's experience. There is probably a local Crohn's or Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) support group nearby if you live in a large metropolitan region. Local hospitals often sponsor support groups. You may find a short-term support group where you can learn skills and coping mechanisms following a diagnosis or surgery. Or, you may find the camaraderie of an ongoing support group better meets your needs. There are also support groups specifically for kids and teens.

Where to start

Here are just a few sources of support groups for people with Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America-www.ccfa.org

United Ostemy Association of America-uuoa.org