The Mental Component of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Updated: Oct 18
Although our scope of practice is solely within the mental health sphere, one physical issue which we hear a lot about in sessions is Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
The context for most of these references is clients who mention that they are struggling with anxiety and they are in the process of being tested for IBS by their family doctor.
The reason for the overlap in potential diagnoses is because the symptoms of anxiety and IBS often greatly resemble each other. In fact, digestion issues are one of the hallmarks of anxiety and nervous processing in humans.
Because of this, I believe that a purely medical approach to IBS often excludes the voices of the sufferers. I can’t tell you how many clients have sat in front of me pondering a recent IBS diagnosis while deep down knowing that their symptoms are most likely tied to difficulty in emotional processing.
This is why I was thrilled to read a recent study in the Journal of Gastroenterology that suggested that IBS patients should be approached as having an irritable BRAIN as well as an irritable BOWEL - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4202343/
I believe that a blended approach to care is exactly what IBS sufferers need. This approach doesn’t discount the obvious physical manifestations of the condition, but it also recognizes the impact that our emotional processing has on our gut health and overall health in general.