Objective: Impaired quality of life and psychological distress are common in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and may be associated with unhelpful cognitions. Hypnotherapy (HT) is effective in improving both symptoms and quality of life in patients with IBS, and this study was designed to determine whether this improvement is reflected in cognitive change using a validated scale recently developed for use in such patients.
Method: A total of 78 IBS patients completed a validated symptom-scoring questionnaire, the Hospital Anxiety and Depression (HAD) Scale and the Cognitive Scale for Functional Bowel Disorders (FBDs), before and after 12 sessions of gut-focused HT.
Results: HT resulted in improvement of symptoms, quality of life and scores for anxiety and depression (all P's<.001). IBS-related cognitions also improved, with reduction in the total cognitive score (TCS; P<.001) and all component themes related to bowel function (all P<.001). Cognitions were related to symptom severity because the most abnormal cognitive scores were observed in patients with the highest symptom scores (P<.001). Furthermore, a reduction in symptom score following treatment correlated with an improvement in the cognitive score (P<.001). Regression analysis confirmed that the cognitive score had independence from the other scores and did not serve solely as a proxy for symptom improvement.
Conclusion: This study shows that symptom improvement in IBS with HT is associated with cognitive change. It also represents an initial step in unravelling the many possible mechanisms by which treatments such as HT might bring about improvement.