New psychological therapies for irritable bowel syndrome: mindfulness, acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)

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APA Citation: 

Sánchez, B. S., Roales-Nieto, J. G., Ferreira, N. B., Luciano, B. G., & Domingo, J. J. S. (2017). New psychological therapies for irritable bowel syndrome: mindfulness, acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). Revista Española de Enfermedades Digestivas, 109(9), 648-657.

Publication Topic: 
ACT: Conceptual
ACT: Empirical
Publication Type: 
ACT, mindfulness, IBS

The current goal of treatment in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) focuses primarily on symptom management and attempts to improve quality of life. Several treatments are at the disposal of physicians; lifestyle and dietary management, pharmacological treatments and psychological interventions are the most used and recommended. Psychological treatments have been proposed as viable alternatives or compliments to existing care models. Most forms of psychological therapies studied have been shown to be helpful in reducing symptoms and in improving the psychological component of anxiety/depression and health-related quality of life. According to current NICE/NHS guidelines, physicians should consider referral for psychological treatment in patients who do not respond to pharmacotherapy for a period of 12 months and develop a continuing symptom profile (described as refractory irritable bowel syndrome). Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the best studied treatment and seems to be the most promising therapeutic approach. However, some studies have challenged the effectiveness of this therapy for irritable bowel syndrome. One study concluded that cognitive behavioral therapy is no more effective than placebo attention control condition and another study showed that the beneficial effects wane after six months of follow-up. A review of mind/body approaches to irritable bowel syndrome has therefore suggested that alternate strategies targeting mechanisms other than thought content change might be helpful, specifically mindfulness and acceptance-based approaches. In this article we review these new psychological treatment approaches in an attempt to raise awareness of alternative treatments to gastroenterologists that treat this clinical syndrome.

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