A psychological approach to the management of irritable bowel syndrome

May 25, 2007

Antidepressants and psychological treatments such as hypnotherapy have the potential to help patients with severe irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), say researchers in this week’s BMJ.

IBS is a very common disorder, but conventional ‘physical’ treatments often do not work very well and patients can feel that their symptoms are being ignored, downplayed or misunderstood.

Patients with IBS are more likely to suffer from depression and have ‘abnormal’ behaviour patterns including anxiety and somatisation (conversion of an emotional, mental, or psychosocial problem to a physical complaint). This has led to the idea that IBS has a psychological as well as a biological basis and a growing body of evidence supports the use of antidepressants for IBS, write the authors.

However, many doctors are reluctant to prescribe such agents to patients who are clearly not depressed.

Other “psychological” therapies exist that patients with IBS should be made aware of, they say. For example, ‘talking therapy’ (known as cognitive behavioural therapy) is as effective as antidepressant treatment and its benefits last longer.

Hypnotherapy has also been reported to be an effective intervention for IBS in small trials, although a recent review of hypnotherapy trials found insufficient evidence to recommend its widespread use and suggested that this treatment option should be restricted to specialist centres dealing with more severe cases of the syndrome.

Nevertheless, hypnotherapy has the potential to help those patients whose IBS is severe, say the authors.

The choice of treatment will depend on the individual patient and, inevitably, will be limited by local availability, they add. However, IBS is undeniably very common and many patients are probably denied help by lack of access to therapists with the appropriate psychological skills.

They believe that increasing provision of primary care services for patients with IBS will provide an avenue for effective and early psychological treatment for a condition in which real improvement can be achieved.

Source: BMJ-British Medical Journal

Explore further: Police seize millions in huge fake Viagra swoop

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Study: Patients with IBS commonly use narcotics

May 04, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- The study found that 18 percent of irritable bowel syndrome patients surveyed reported they were currently using narcotics. These patients reported more abdominal pain, poorer health quality, more IBS-related ...

Recommended for you

Novartis Japan admits concealing drug side effects

12 hours ago

The Japanese unit of Swiss pharma giant Novartis has admitted it did not report more than 2,500 cases of serious side effects in patients using its leukaemia and other cancer drugs, reportedly including some fatalities.

Most US babies get their vaccines, CDC says

Aug 28, 2014

(HealthDay)—The vast majority of American babies are getting the vaccines they need to protect them from serious illnesses, federal health officials said Thursday.

Expression of privilege in vaccine refusal

Aug 27, 2014

Not all students returning to school this month will be up to date on their vaccinations. A new study conducted by Jennifer Reich, a researcher at the University of Colorado Denver, shows that the reasons why children may ...

User comments : 0