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Psychotherapy for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Topic Overview

Psychotherapy may be effective for people who have severe pain caused by irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Psychotherapy involves talking with a mental health professional about emotional and psychological problems that may trigger symptoms of IBS. Religious or spiritual advisers may offer similar help. Family therapy and support groups also may help in the treatment of IBS.

Psychological treatment methods may be more effective if used along with other treatments, such as diet modification, stress reduction, and sometimes medicine. People with symptoms of IBS who may have success with these treatments include people who have:1

  • Diarrhea and pain as their main symptoms.
  • IBS symptoms related to psychological triggers, such as depression, anxiety, or a history of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.

People who do not think that psychological factors play a role in triggering their symptoms may not respond to psychotherapy. Also, people who have constipation and abdominal bloating as their main symptoms may not respond to psychotherapy as well as those who have diarrhea and pain.

References

Citations

  1. Tack J (2006). Irritable bowel syndrome. In MM Wolfe et al., eds., Therapy of Digestive Disorders, 2nd ed., pp. 701–710. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Arvydas D. Vanagunas, MD - Gastroenterology
Last Revised April 26, 2012

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