Aims: The purposes of this study were to quantify the effects of severe irritable bowel syndrome on quality of life and economic functioning, and to assess the impact of hypnotherapy on these features.
Methods: A validated quality of life questionnaire including questions on symptoms, employment and health seeking behaviour was administered to 25 patients treated with hypnotherapy (aged 25-55 years; four male) and to 25 control irritable bowel syndrome patients of comparable severity (aged 21-58 years; two male). Visual analogue scales were used and scores derived to assess the patients' symptoms and satisfaction with each aspect of life.
Results: Patients treated with hypnotherapy reported less severe abdominal pain (P < 0.0001), bloating (P < 0.02), bowel habit (P < 0.0001), nausea (P < 0.05), flatulence (P < 0.05), urinary symptoms (P < 0.01), lethargy (P < 0.01), backache (P = 0.05) and dyspareunia (P = 0.05) compared with control patients. Quality of life, such as psychic well being (P < 0.0001), mood (P < 0.001), locus of control (P < 0.05), physical well being (P < 0.001) and work attitude (P < 0.001) were also favourably influenced by hypnotherapy. For those patients in employment, more of the controls were likely to take time off work (79% vs. 32%; p = 0.02) and visit their general practitioner ( 58% vs. 21%; P = 0.056) than those treated with hypnotherapy. Three of four hypnotherapy patients out of work prior to treatment resumed employment compared with none of the six in the control group.
Conclusion: This study has shown that in addition to relieving the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, hypnotherapy profoundly improves the patients' quality of life and reduces absenteeism from work. It therefore appears that, despite being relatively expensive to provide, it could well be a good long-term investment.