Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Talk Therapy

Irritable bowel syndrome is a common but sometimes painful disorder that impacts a person's large intestine or colon. Symptoms can range from mild discomfort to crippling pain, gas, and diarrhea. Often, medication and dietary changes are the first treatment options that sufferers turn to for relief of their IBS symptoms. While those are great places to start, other lesser-known options can be effective for helping IBS sufferers manage their condition and gain better control of their symptoms. Talk therapy may be an overlooked treatment option for those with IBS. Believe it or not, 95 percent of the body’s neurotransmitter serotonin, which impacts everything from mood to sleep, can be found in your digestive tract. There is a strong brain-gut connection that can impact both your digestive health and your overall health. Talk therapy can help those with IBS manage the stress of their condition and learn new strategies that may help ease symptoms of the disorder. To find out more about IBS and to get help, call the IBS specialists of GastroCare LI at 516-265-7049. Make an appointment to talk with one of us today so we can answer your questions.

What Is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Irritable bowel syndrome, also known as IBS, is a medical condition that impacts the digestive system, more specifically the large intestine. Those with IBS may experience uncomfortable or even painful symptoms such as cramping, gas, bloating, and diarrhea. The cause of irritable bowel syndrome is still a hot topic with no definitive answer. The condition seems to impact women more than men. It also tends to occur in people ranging in age from late teens to the early 40s. Those with a family history of irritable bowel syndrome, food intolerances, digestive tract infections, and significant emotional stress have a higher risk of developing the condition.

What Is Talk Therapy?

Talk therapy or psychotherapy is a common tool that mental health professionals use to effectively communicate with their patients. It is a treatment technique that helps patients identify problematic or troubling emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. Once identified, a mental health professional will use talk therapy to help a person change those thoughts and behaviors. Talk therapy gives a person a safe space where they can recount their feelings and discuss their emotions openly and honestly. There should be no fear of judgment. Once a mental health care provider gets a better idea of what triggers a patient’s stress or anxiety response, they can help develop strategies and tactics for overcoming the severity of those feelings. According to the American Psychological Association, there are five broad approaches to psychotherapy. These categories include:
  • Behavioral therapy
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Humanistic therapy
  • Psychodynamic therapy
  • Holistic or integrative therapy
Certain techniques or combinations of techniques can have a different impact on different individuals. Consider talking with your doctor to narrow down which approach may be best for you.

How Can Talk Therapy Help with Irritable Bowel Symptoms?

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is typically used to help those who cope with anxiety and depression. However, new studies indicate that it may also be an effective tool for helping people with IBS manage their symptoms. Irritable bowel syndrome sufferers may be skeptical of this approach. After all, the problem is in your gut, not your head. Or is it? Living with IBS can be stressful and painful. Those who deal with the symptoms of the disorder daily can feel anxiety, frustration, and depression. These negative thoughts and emotions may trigger a flood of stress hormones, a fight or flight response, and over time may increase inflammation in the body and digestive tract. That inflammation can make symptoms worse. Cognitive-behavioral therapy teaches individuals strategies they can use to cope with the world and their symptoms in a healthy way. Tactics that this form of therapy may employ include:
  • Deep breathing exercises
  • Muscle relaxation techniques
  • Desensitization tactics
  • Visualization exercises
  • Calming self-talk
  • Thought-stopping
  • Confronting negative perceptions
These strategies can help IBS suffers in a variety of ways. First, CBT can teach individuals how to calm and relax the body. Easing muscle tension may help alleviate some of the painful cramping associated with an IBS flair-up. Learning to better manage stress can also help improve symptoms of IBS since there is a strong connection between the nervous system and the digestive system. Therapy may also teach individuals how to cope with their symptoms and face difficult situations more constructively. Changing one’s perception of an experience can go a long way in helping them more effectively cope. It can also foster a more positive approach to problem-solving and managing IBS symptoms.

Where to Start?

Beginning the talk therapy process can seem daunting. The first step toward discovering whether talk therapy will work for you is to find a psychologist that specializes in talk therapy. You will also want a provider that has experience with IBS patients. You may want to talk to your doctor about giving you a referral. Your insurance carrier may also have a list of providers that specialize in talk therapy. Before you make an appointment, don’t be afraid to ask questions. You will want to know:
  • Do they have experience treating patients with IBS?
  • How many sessions do they recommend per week?
  • Are they state certified?
If you are a part of an IBS support group, they may also have resources for those looking into talk therapy. Ask for information or talk to a trusted friend about their recommendations. You may also want to conduct some online research to find talk therapy providers in your area.

Contact the Team at GastroCare LI Today

Are you worried that you may be suffering from irritable bowel syndrome? Have you been diagnosed but are still having a difficult time managing your IBS symptoms? Contact the team at GastroCare LI today to make an appointment with one of our professionals. At GastroCare LI, we focus on helping you manage your IBS with a range of different approaches tailored to your unique needs. For more information or to schedule an appointment, get in touch with our office by calling 516-265-7049. We look forward to meeting with you!
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