Psychological Therapies Help IBS Patients Long-Term

January 5, 2016
Amy Jacob

Adults afflicted with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other gastrointestinal symptoms can benefit both short- and long-term from psychological therapies.

Adults afflicted with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other gastrointestinal symptoms can benefit both short- and long-term from psychological therapies.

Lynn S. Walker, PhD, professor of pediatrics, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and colleagues searched the literature through August 15, 2015 and identified 41 randomized controlled trials comparing the efficacy of psychological therapy for treating GI symptoms in adults with IBS.

The team also examined control conditions like supportive therapy, education, sham treatments, online discussion forums, enhanced medical care, treatment as usual, symptom monitoring and wait-list controls.

Research indicated psychotherapies effectively improved GI symptoms immediately following treatment. According to the authors, “The average individual assigned to psychotherapy experienced a greater decrease in GI symptoms than 75% of individuals assigned to a control condition.”

Furthermore, “Cognitive, relaxation, and hypnosis therapies were the most commonly tested treatment modalities within our eligible sample of trials. The results suggest these three therapies may be equally effective at improving GI symptoms.”

Walker remarked, “Our study is the first one that has looked at long-term effects. We found that the moderate benefit that psychological therapies confer in the short term continue over the long term. This is significant because IBS is a chronic, intermittent condition for which there is no good medical treatment.”