Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Superior in Improving IBS Quality of Life

Research has shown that psychotherapy is often as effective as medication in alleviating the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a painful and debilitating condition affecting some 1 in 10 adults worldwide. Seeking to refine this understanding, researchers from Vanderbilt University have evaluated different types of psychotherapy to determine which, if any, provided superior patient outcomes. The conclusion: cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is most effective in restoring patients’ overall function and quality of life. Kelsey Laird, first author, and a doctoral student in clinical psychology at Vanderbilt, commented, “Evaluating daily function is important because it distinguishes between someone who experiences physical symptoms but can fully engage in work, school, and social activities and someone who cannot.” The findings were published online last month in Clinical Psychology Review.

The authors’ conclusions are based on an analysis of 31 studies of 1,700 patients who were randomly assigned to receive psychotherapy or a control experience that included support groups, education, or wait-list. Those patients who received psychotherapy in any form experienced more improvement in daily functioning than did those in the control groups. Among the psychotherapy cohort, those who received CBT performed better than those receiving other types of therapy. The authors hypothesize that that the difference may be due to the specific emphasis in CBT on helping patients to reduce their psychological stress through gradual exposure to uncomfortable situations—including, for patients with IBS, venturing farther from the familiarity of home environments.

A news story about the findings, with link to the journal article, may be read here.

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