Psychotherapy for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

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Topic Overview

Psychotherapy may work well for people who have severe pain caused by irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

It involves talking with a mental health professional about emotional and psychological problems that may trigger symptoms of IBS. Religious or spiritual advisers may also offer help. Family therapy and support groups also may help in the treatment of IBS.

Psychological treatment methods may work better if used along with other treatments. These include diet modification, stress reduction, and sometimes medicine. These treatments are likely to work best in people who have:footnote 1

  • Diarrhea and pain as their main symptoms.
  • IBS symptoms related to psychological triggers. Triggers may include depression, anxiety, or a history of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.

 People who do not have psychological triggers may not respond to psychotherapy. Also, people who have constipation and belly bloating as their main symptoms may not respond to psychotherapy as well as those who have diarrhea and pain.



  1. Tack J (2006). Irritable bowel syndrome. In MM Wolfe et al., eds., Therapy of Digestive Disorders, 2nd ed., pp. 701–710. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerArvydas D. Vanagunas, MD - Gastroenterology

Current as ofNovember 14, 2014