Do you have irritable bowel syndrome ? If you answered, “yes” then hypnosis could be just the treatment to help you reduce your irritable bowel syndrome symptoms . To help understand how hypnosis can help irritable bowel syndrome and what a typical hypnosis session would be like, I have interviewed psychologist Eric B. Spiegel, Ph.D.
Tell me a little about yourself:
“I am a licensed psychologist, practicing in Philadelphia and Bryn Mawr, PA, and working with adults and adolescents. I received my Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Maryland in 2005. In addition, I am a member of the American Psychological Association (APA) and American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (ASCH). In 2007, I received a Certification in Clinical Hypnosis by ASCH, reflective of intensive training and practice in clinical hypnosis, meeting the certification standards of ASCH. ASCH was established in 1957 for the purpose of bringing together professionals in the medical, dental and psychological fields using hypnosis.
In my practice, I specialize in working with anxiety and mood disorders , relationship concerns, trauma, and mind-body psychology (e.g. headaches, insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome, pain, and other mind-body health issues that have a psychological component to them).”
What type of impact can Irritable Bowel Syndrome have on someone’s life?
” Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is known as a functional bowel disorder , in that the main abnormality is some type of altered physiological function, rather than a clearly identifiable biochemical, inflammatory or structural cause. It is often a ‘rule out’ diagnosis, given by doctors after testing has ruled-out the presence of other gastrointestinal disorders with biochemical, inflammatory, or structural causes, such as Crohn’s Disease, Colitis, Giardiasis , or Inflammatory Bowel Disease ( IBD ). However, to individuals who suffer from IBS, the impact on their lives can be profound. Symptoms can include diarrhea, bloating, constipation, and abdominal pain or discomfort. With these symptoms can come significant changes in lifestyle, such as frequent, unpredictable trips to the bathroom; and phobic avoidance of certain activities that most people take for granted, out of fear that an unexpected IBS attack may occur which could be disabling or humiliating.”
How can hypnosis help someone that has Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
“In the same way that we do not fully understand the causal mechanisms of IBS, we cannot fully explain exactly why hypnosis helps reduce IBS symptoms. Certain studies have indicated a link between increased activity in the Anterior Cingulate Cortex (ACC) portion of the brain and IBS symptoms ; highly hypnotizable patients have displayed reduced ACC activity as a result of hypnosis, in comparison to low hypnotizable patients or those who received no hypnotic suggestions (Raz, 2005; Zastrow, 2010). This hypnotic effect on the ACC may be connected to a reduction in the perception of IBS-related pain. From a different vantage point, we have also seen an association between IBS and anxiety in many (but not all) IBS patients. Hypnosis helps to activate the parasympathetic nervous system , causing a person to relax, which may in part explain a reduction in IBS symptoms. Regardless of the exact treatment mechanism, we know that hypnosis does have reliable and substantial treatment effects for IBS. A recent meta-analysis by Palsson (2010) examined the existing studies that have been conducted on hypnosis and IBS. Across the studies, he found that there were both broad impacts of hypnosis on IBS symptoms – including a significant reduction in many of the symptoms, such as pain, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea – as well as durable impacts, in that hypnotic benefits lasted for a lengthy period after treatment. Thus, there is clear research support for a hypnotic treatment effect for IBS.”
What would a typical hypnosis session for Irritable Bowel Syndrome be like?
“There are some standardized hypnotic treatments for IBS, such as the 7-session protocol developed by Dr. Olafur Palsson and colleagues at the University of North Carolina, that have received significant empirical support. Other clinicians trained in hypnosis may choose to use a more personalized hypnotic approach based on the patient’s specific background and needs. Regardless of whether one is using a scripted or personalized hypnotic approach, the stages of a hypnosis treatment consist of induction, deepening, suggestion, alerting, and debriefing. From my clinical experience, I have found that hypnosis impacts the IBS through two treatment pathways — the specific hypnotic suggestions targeting the IBS symptoms , as well as the overall relaxation that is occurring throughout the process as a function of being hypnotized. Regarding the latter, I have noticed that as the patient becomes more proficient in relaxing during the hypnosis sessions (as well as through the use of the self-hypnosis recordings that I assign as homework), he or she tends to notice diminished emotional and physiological reactivity.”
Where can someone find more information about hypnosis in relation to Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
“I recommend the public information website IBShypnosis.com (www.ibshypnosis.com) developed by Dr. Palsson. It is a great resource for learning more about hypnosis research and applications in the treatment of IBS. Another excellent general resource is the website of the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (www.asch.net), which has a helpful section containing frequently asked questions about hypnosis, as well as myths about hypnosis.”
Thank you Dr. Spiegel for doing the interview on how hypnosis can help someone with Irritable Bowel Syndrome . For more information on Dr. Spiegel or his work you can visit his website at http://www.ericspiegelphd.com.