Healing your mind could be the path to healing your body. In the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), this statement seems to be true. Recent studies have shown that patients receiving cognitive therapy (a type of psychological treatment) have had much greater success in limiting their symptoms than those individuals who use conventional methods to treat IBS have. The study showed that just four sessions of this therapy combined with take-home projects could help patients improve their symptoms by more than 70%.
Cognitive therapy is different from normal psychological counseling in that using this option isn’t intended for over a long-term basis. Instead of simply listening to the patients, cognitive therapists work with them in order to help develop coping skills that they can use in everyday life. The techniques are structured and specific to the person, and they provide a clear goal.
In the treatment of IBS, patients were assisted with feelings of stress, fear, anxiety, and other emotional barriers. These stressors are known to aggravate the symptoms of IBS, making the disease much worse. By working with therapists, the patients received practical tips on how to deal with their emotions. It was, according to one author, as straightforward as advising a heart attack patient on how to avoid stresses during recovery.
The study was presented at Digestive Disease Week 2006, an annual meeting on digestive conditions. It showed that the combination of cognitive therapy and self-treatment was greatly effective in helping patients get their symptoms under control. The study involved 59 patients who were split into three groups.
Among the groups, one got the treatment mentioned above for four weeks while another group went to 10 sessions of cognitive therapy, but didn’t receive a take-home workbook. The third group received no active treatment. While both active treatments resulted in significant improvements in symptoms and quality of life, those who received take-home instructions kept improving, while those in the other group did not.
In both cases, the results were still significant. The participants who received no active treatment saw little to no improvement and acted as a control. The other groups had reduced pain and symptoms by about 73%. In the four- week group, gastrointestinal problems also improved by over 63% and those getting 10 sessions had an over 68% improvement in their bowel region.
While gastrointestinal problems seemed to be reduced more in the 10-session group, the overall better treatment was concluded to be the four weeks of therapy. With take-home instructions, these patients had ongoing improvements in their quality of life. As well, the treatment was more efficient and because of the reduced number of sessions required, it’s also likely to create less financial strain on the patients.