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Long Term Benefits of Hypnotherapy for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Results: 71% of patients initially responded to hypnotherapy. Of these, 81% maintained their improvement over time while the majority of the remaining 19% claimed that deterioration of symptoms had only been slight. With respect to symptom scores, all items at follow up were significantly improved on pre-hypnotherapy levels (p<0.001) and showed little change from post-hypnotherapy values. There were no significant differences in the symptom scores between patients assessed at 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5+ years following treatment. Quality of life and anxiety or depression scores were similarly still significantly improved at follow up (p<0.001) but did show some deterioration. Patients also reported a reduction in consultation rates and medication use following the completion of hypnotherapy.

Conclusion: This study demonstrates that the beneficial effects of hypnotherapy appear to last at least five years. Thus it is a viable therapeutic option for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome.

Notes: Patients and methods: 204 patients prospectively completed questionnaires scoring symptoms, quality of life, anxiety, and depression before, immediately after, and up to six years following hypnotherapy. All subjects also subjectively assessed the effects of hypnotherapy retrospectively in order to define their “responder status”. Gut directed hypnotherapy comprises a course of up to 12 weekly 1 hour sessions. Each session consists of induction of the hypnotic state and deepening procedures, followed by “ego strengthening” suggestions relevant to the individual. These are accompanied by further suggestions and interventions, such as inducing warmth in the abdomen using the hands and imagery, directed towards controlling and normalizing gut function.

This study presents the first long term follow up of a large number of patients who have undergone hypnotherapy for IBS symptoms.

Gut 2003;52:1623-1629 doi:10.1136/gut.52.11.1623 By: W. M. Gonsalkorale, V. Miller, A. Afzal, P. J. Whorwell, Department of Medicine, University Hospital of South Manchester, Manchester, UK Correspondence to: Dr. W. M. Gonsalkorale Hypnotherapy Unit, Withington Hospital, Nell Lane, Manchester M20 2LR, UK


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