Cognitive Behavioral Aspects of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

recent study followed 620 patients with gastroenteritis (an infection or inflammation of the stomach area) to see if they went on to develop Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) (a more chronic bowel disorder). Researchers wanted to evaluate whether those who developed IBS had any psychological factors in common. And in fact, they did.

Patients completed a psychological self-report measure when initially infected, then at 3 and 6 months. Of the 620 patients, 49 of them developed IBS – and these 49 patients also had higher perceived stress, anxiety and negative illness beliefs as compared to those who did not develop IBS.

Researchers said that, “Patients who have ongoing symptoms following gastroenteritis may benefit from a simple early cognitive-behavioural intervention where they are encouraged to slowly regain levels of activity and to avoid fluctuating between overactivity and underactivity.” In other words, if cognitive and behavioral factors contribute to the development of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, then Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) may be critical for helping to manage psychological aspects of the illness.

2 replies
  1. Marie McFarland
    Marie McFarland says:

    I am not surprised at this result. I have a daughter who developed Crohns Disease following a very stressful period in her life while in another European country. She also developed a type of anorexia where ( as we know this helps the clients to gain some degree of control in their lives) she ate v little carb, lots of fruit vegt and protein, and did excessive amounts of exercise . Her recommended treatment is antinflamatory drugs which have lots of side-effects. I have been trying to get her to use CBT, to help her lower/manage her stress levels. Both my sons developed lactose intolerance, despite being big fit, breast fed (as was my daughter for 6 months exclusively) healthy big men. Both were following severe bouts of gastroenteritis at different times and in different countries. They were keen on body building/ keeping fit; and as soon as they recovered they started back fairly quickly and prob f intensively as they thought they would have to make up for the time they were sick. Like most young people they lead busy often stressful lives. I feel these factors are the main contributing factors to the huge increase in IBS or other realted GI conditions. I do believe CBT + elimination/reduction of rogue foods like cafene products, carbonateed drinks and alcohol, would be very beneficial.

  2. Maria Gallardo
    Maria Gallardo says:

    I too suffered from IBS right after the birth of my daughter in 1995. I attributed it to the stress of delivery on my lower body and on the stress of dealing with a newborn on my own. The doctors kept telling me there was no connection. I was told to take metamucil for the fiber and believe it or not it did go away on its own after about three years.

    I also have a friend who at this very moment is getting tested for every possible stomach/gastric condition because she is experiencing pains in the stomach after eating and has diarrhea and or is constipated. Her doctor tells her it is all being caused by stress and her head. She is currently going through alot of problems with her boyfriend who doesn’t get along with her best friend who is also her roommate. My friend cannot move at this time so there is conflict every time her boyfriend comes to visit. i told her to move out and start taking metamucil and go to therapy to help her get through this period. In a short few months she has lost nearly 15 pounds and is down to eating soup for every meal. What could she do to help her get through this highly stressful time in her life?


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