Body Image Concerns With a Stoma

Your body is different after stoma surgery, so you may experience body image issues. Explore your feelings about your body after stoma surgery and learn how to deal with new emotions. 


Get body image tips after stoma surgery.

Stoma formation imposes significant changes to body image, both physically and emotionally. The process of adjustment and acceptance often takes time. After stoma surgery, give yourself the time you need to adapt. Be patient, stay positive, and seek help if you need it.

Dealing with initial body image feelings

Regardless of the reason for your stoma, or whether your stoma is temporary or permanent, coming to terms with your changed body can be overwhelming. Being open and honest with people you care about is one key to dealing with those initial feelings.

Try to explain how you feel about your body with a stoma to your partner or a supportive friend. You might have strong negative feelings that could lead to depression or anxiety, affect your sense of identity, result in reduced participation in social activities, and impact the way you behave towards those around you. Be sure to give your loved ones the best chance to understand and be there for you. 

Remember that your stoma care nurse is available to you as well. He or she is well trained to support you while you adjust and recover. You are not alone. Everyone with a stoma has had to deal with these emotions, and your stoma care nurse is most likely skilled at listening, understands how you are feeling, and may be able to help guide you to other professional help if needed.

Tips for managing feelings about body image

  • Don’t avoid going to new places or seeing new people. Avoidance can reinforce a feeling that you’re being stared at in social situations, which is almost never the case.
  • Rather than worry about someone being too curious, change the conversation. Practice responses or one-line statements that take the focus off you and redirect the conversation. For example, smile, and say something like “Enough about me – let’s talk about you.”
  • Remember what originally attracted your partner to you. It’s not likely that your tummy had much to do with the initial attraction, so focus on your strengths. Consider what is positive about you and your appearance. Say it out loud so that you hear it and believe it.
  • Reframe your stoma into a positive. Perhaps your stoma can come to represent well-being and being rid of illness. Nurture that feeling and share it with others to make it stronger.