Psychological treatments for irritable bowel syndrome: a systematic review and meta-analysis

J Consult Clin Psychol. 2004 Dec;72(6):1100-13. doi: 10.1037/0022-006X.72.6.1100.


This study conducted a systematic review to assess the quality of existing literature on psychological treatments for irritable bowel syndrome and to quantify the evidence for their efficacy. Three independent reviewers (2 from England, 1 from the United States) coded the quality of 32 studies, 17 of which provided data suitable for meta-analysis. Meta-analysis of efficacy data (50% reduction of symptoms) gave an odds ratio of 12 (95% confidence interval = 5.56-25.96) and a number needed to treat of 2. Psychological treatments are, as a class of interventions, effective in reducing symptoms compared with a pooled group of control conditions. Questions regarding the relative superiority of specific psychological treatments and influence of active versus nonspecific treatment effects remain unanswered.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / psychology
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / therapy*
  • Psychotherapy / methods*