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Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

  • Brenda B. Toner

There is increasing evidence that supports the view that irritable bowel disorder (IBS) is a disorder of brain-gut function. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has received increased attention in light of this recent shift in the conceptualization of IBS. This review has two main aims. The first is to provide a critical review of controlled trials on CBT for IBS. The second is to discuss ways of further developing CBT interventions that are more clinically relevant and meaningful to health care providers and individuals with a diagnosis of IBS. A theme from a CBT intervention will be presented to illustrate how CBT interventions can be incorporated within a larger social context. A review of CBT for IBS lends some limited support for improvement in some IBS symptoms and associated psychosocial distress. This conclusion needs to be expressed with some caution, however, in light of many methodological shortcomings including small sample sizes, inadequate control conditions and failure to identify primary versus secondary outcome measures. In addition, future studies will need to further develop more relevant CBT protocols that more fully integrate the patient's perspective and challenge social cognitions about this stigmatized disorder.

Corresponding author
Please direct all correspondence to: Brenda B. Toner, PhD, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 250 Colleage Street, Toronto, Ontario M5T 1R8, Canada; Tel: 416-979-4271, Fax: 416-979-6811; E-mail:
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CNS Spectrums
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