Specific Psychological Distress: Irritable Bowel Syndrome

While it is not yet known what exact physical mechanisms cause IBS, increasing evidence indicates that this relatively common affliction (estimates suggest from 7% to 17% of the population suffers from it) may be exacerbated by psychological factors such as stress and anxiety. Cognitive behavioural therapy is emerging as one of the more effective psychological treatments.

Specific Psychological Distress

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Blanchard, E.B. (1998) 'Irritable Bowel Syndrome', in Gatchel and Blanchard (1998).

This reports on the Albany Multicomponent Behavioral Therapy Program for IBS, successfully incorporating CBT techniques to address both the gastrointestinal symptoms of IBS and the affective disturbances or anxiety hypothesized to underlie the syndrome.

Blanchard, E.B. and H.S. Malamood (1996) 'Psychological Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome', Professional Psychology: Research and Practice 27: 241-44.

This review of studies applying CBT to IBS found cognitive behavioural therapy to be equivalent or more effective than typical medical care regimens.

Greene, B. and E.B. Blanchard (1994) 'Cognitive Therapy for Irritable Bowel Syndrome', Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 62:576-82.

This is one of the early articles to suggest that treatments which address the cognitive components of anxiety disorders may influence underlying processes responsible for the physiological symptoms of IBS.

Tirch, D. and C.L. Radnitz (1997) 'Cognitive Behavioral Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome', The Clinical Psychologist 50(1):18-20.

This short article reviews some of the other studies indicating that CBT is effective in the treatment of IBS.

van Dulmen, A.M.; J.F.M. Fennis and G. Bleijenberg (1996) 'Cognitive Behavior Group Therapy for Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Effects and Long-term Follow-up', Psychosomatic Medicine 58:508-14.

While methodologically flawed (primarily due to absence of group therapy control group and non-randomized group assignment), this study suggests that cognitive behavioural group therapy is effective in alleviating symptoms, with effects persisting through a longitudinal monitoring period averaging over 2 years.


This page was last reviewed by Dr Greg Mulhauser, Thursday, 14 October 2021.