Psychotherapy or behavioral therapy for irritable bowel syndrome

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

  • Psychotherapy. Psychotherapy involves talking with a mental health professional about emotional and psychological problems that may trigger symptoms of IBS. Religious or spiritual advisors may offer similar help. Family therapy and support groups also may help in the treatment of IBS.
  • Behavioral therapy. Behavioral therapy teaches people how to recognize situations that may trigger their symptoms of IBS. They can learn how to find healthier ways of responding to those situations, thereby reducing stress.

Psychological treatment methods may be more effective if used along with other treatments, such as diet modification, stress reduction, and sometimes medication. 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 psychological factors play a role in triggering their symptoms may not respond to psychotherapy. In addition, 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.

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.

Last Updated: May 23, 2008

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