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The Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome with Hypnotherapy

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Previous research from the United Kingdom has shown hypnotherapy to be effective in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The current study provides a systematic replication of this work in the United States. Six matched pairs of IBS patients were randomly assigned to either a gut-directed hypnotherapy (n=6) or to a symptom monitoring wait-list control condition (n=6) in a multiple baseline across subjects design. Those assigned to the control condition were later crossed over to the treatment condition. Subjects were matched on concurrent psychiatric diagnoses, susceptibility to hypnosis, and various demographic features. On a composite measure of primary IBS symptoms, treatment was superior (p=.016) to symptom monitoring. Results from the entire treated sample (n=11; one subject was removed from analysis) indicate that the individual symptoms of abdominal pain, constipation, and flatulence improved significantly. State and trait anxiety scores were also seen to decrease significantly. Results at the 2-month follow-up point indicated good maintenance of treatment gains. No significant correlation was found between initial susceptibility to hypnosis and treatment gain. A positive relationship was found between the incidence of psychiatric diagnosis and overall level of improvement.

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Galovski, T.E., Blanchard, E.B. The Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome with Hypnotherapy. Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback 23, 219–232 (1998).

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