Topic Overview

Psychotherapy may work well for
people who have severe pain caused by
irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

It involves talking with a
mental health professional about emotional and psychological problems that may
trigger symptoms of IBS. Religious or spiritual advisers may also offer help. Family therapy and support groups also may help in the treatment of

Psychological treatment methods may work better
if used along with other treatments. These include diet modification, stress
reduction, and sometimes medicine. These treatments are likely to work best in people who have:footnote 1

  • Diarrhea and pain as their main
  • IBS symptoms related to psychological triggers. Triggers may include depression, anxiety, or a history of physical, emotional, or sexual

 People who do not have psychological triggers may not respond to psychotherapy. Also, people
who have constipation and belly bloating as their main symptoms may not
respond to psychotherapy as well as those who have diarrhea and pain.



  1. Tack J (2006). Irritable bowel syndrome. In MM Wolfe et al., eds., Therapy of Digestive Disorders, 2nd ed., pp. 701-710. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD – Internal Medicine
Adam Husney, MD – Family Medicine

Current as ofMay 5, 2017