Teletherapy-Hypnosis May Help Ease IBS Symptoms

This mind-body therapy may help ease IBS pain even when delivered via Skype.

Posted Feb 16, 2019

Image courtesy of Pixabay. Free for commercial use. No attribution required.
IBS Pain
Source: Image courtesy of Pixabay. Free for commercial use. No attribution required.

Teletherapy is gaining in popularity in part because it makes help available to people who otherwise would have difficulty accessing it due to geographic, economic, or physical health issues. 

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a gastrointestinal disorder that affects roughly 10 to 15% of the population, and causes significant physical and psychological distress. People who have IBS suffer from frequent diarrhea, constipation, or both of these; as well as GI pain and other physical symptoms. For many, these symptoms generate considerable anxiety related to traveling due to fears of diarrhea and incontinence. The combination of distress and GI symptoms, including fears of losing control of one's bowels, can thus make it difficult for IBS patients to make it to additional health care and other appointments.

Patients with IBS are frequently prescribed any of a variety of medications, as well as dietary changes, to manage symptoms. Yet, for some people, these approaches fail to result in adequate symptom relief.

Hypnosis to Reduce the Pain and Distress of IBS

Hypnosis has been shown to help with a number of IBS-related symptoms, including in a study of 1000 participants. Hypnosis, sometimes referred to as hypnotherapy, involves a provider helping a patient to enter a state in which they can more easily focus on and be receptive to verbal suggestions. For example, once in a more relaxed, yet focused state (often referred to as a trance state), the person can more easily take in suggestions aimed at fostering greater bodily comfort, as well as decreased pain, stress and anxiety. 

Hypnosis sessions most commonly take place in person over a series of several weeks. Yet, for patients with IBS, it can be stressful and physically challenging, as well as costly, to commute to a number of additional health care appointments. 

Could Teletherapy-Delivered Hypnosis Be Effective?

A recent study examined whether hypnosis sessions delivered via Skype and aimed at reducing IBS-related symptoms would be as effective as in-person hypnosis sessions.

For this study, researchers enrolled 20 IBS patients who received 12 sessions of hypnotherapy. The first session was conducted in person, but the remainder were conducted via Skype. The data from these 20 participants was then compared to that of the original 1000-person study. The Skype study participants completed the same questionnaires as the larger study, including measures of IBS severity, pain, anxiety and depression, and quality of life. They also filled out a measure of noncolonic symptoms (such as nausea, heartburn, headaches, lethargy, and other symptoms), which frequently accompany IBS. 

The Results

The results of this study found that by the study’s conclusion, significantly fewer participants reported having severe IBS symptoms. Hypnosis was also associated with statistically significant reductions in both noncolonic symptom severity and anxiety, and significant improvement in quality of life. The reduction in depression symptoms approached but did not quite reach statistical significance. 

The data from the Skype group were also compared to those of participants in the larger, in-person hypnosis study. Although the degree of improvement on most outcomes was somewhat greater for in-person hypnosis, after adjusting for age, there was no statistically significant difference between the Skype and in-person groups with regard to improvement in IBS symptoms and pain. 

Summary: Skype-Delivered Hypnosis is Helpful for IBS

To summarize, the results of recent research have found that hypnosis may be an effective treatment for reducing pain, anxiety, and IBS severity and improving quality of life in people who have IBS. These findings seem important both for people who have inadequate relief from medications and dietary changes and in general for those dealing with painful gastrointestinal and related symptoms. It’s worth noting that the Skype study was small, and it will be important to conduct further research with larger numbers of participants. Yet, the results suggest that teletherapy hypnosis sessions can be an effective option for those who otherwise would have great difficulty accessing or be unable to avail themselves of in-person hypnosis sessions. 

References

Hasan, S. S., Pearson, J. S., & Whorwell, P. J. (2019). SKYPE HYPNOTHERAPY FOR IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME: Effectiveness and Comparison with Face-to-Face Treatment. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis.