Gastro Psychology – New Treatment For IBS

Gastro Psychology – New Treatment For IBS

by Dr Emma Gray - 6th September, 2012

images (3)Cheap, Effective, Long Lasting Results in Just 10 weeks
Recent research suggests that relief for millions of IBS sufferers could be just around the corner. A study conducted at The Stockholm Centre for Psychiatry Research found that an internet based treatment programme combining Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), exposure and mindfulness techniques resulted in a significant reduction of IBS symptoms in sufferers compared to a control group in just 10 weeks, improvements that were maintained at a 1 year follow up. The fact that the treatment programme was delivered via the internet makes it cheaper to provide and therefore much more accessible to patients as it bypass the problem frequently encountered with CBT of finding properly trained therapist to deliver it.
Irritiable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a gastrointestinal problem characterised by chronic abdominal pain, discomfort, bloating and alternative boats of diarrhea and constipation. Although it does not affect life expectancy, it has a significant effect on quality of life, contributes of work absenteeism and has a high social cost. Figures suggest that it effects approximately 11% of the world’s population, but this is likely to be a gross underestimation as only a third of cases are thought to seek treatment. Women are two to three times more likely to be diagnosed with IBS. There is currently no cure for IBS and treatments are therefore aimed at attempting to relieve symptoms, there include dietary adjustments, patient education, medication and psychological interventions.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a type of psychological intervention or ‘talking therapy’ which has been found to one of the most effective way of treating IBS. It works by improving the way that people cope with their symptoms, thus reducing their severity and frequency and the disability and anxiety that accompany them. However, the treatment can only be delivered by properly trained therapist whose training is extensive and as a result expensive. The result is that despite CBT being recommended by The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) and therefore the government in the treatment of IBS the NHS is unable to provide it to everyone who needs it because it costs too much to employ properly trained therapist to deliver it.
The internet delivered CBT evaluated in the Stockholm study was able to significantly reduce the cost of the treatment by minimising therapist contact and although the intervention did entail some costs these were offset by greater productivity levels both at paid work and in the domestic realm. Thirty-six percent of the participants in the treatment condition were clinically improved and for each case of clinical improvement in IBS symptoms $16,806 of societal costs were saved.


Dr Emma Gray

Dr Emma Gray

I am often the first person with whom my patients share significant and intimate thoughts and memories; I never take that privileged position for granted nor the opportunity to help someone to feel better about themselves and discover a more fulfilling life. One of my colleague once described me as natural psychologist; I guess she was alluding to the fact that I feel at ease being a therapist, I can empathise with people’s distress and discomfort but don’t feel overwhelmed by it, I can understand their problem and know how to help, it has always just felt like what I should be doing.


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