Irritable Bowel Syndrome
A Treatment Strategy
Other common names for this condition:
- Spastic colon
- Irritable colon syndrome
Conventional medicine diagnoses a condition as IBS when no cause can be found for the symptoms.
- Frequency within the populace
It is thought that between 10 to 20 percent of adults suffer from this condition although many of them do not seek treatment. Generally more frequent in women.
Causation and progression of IBS
IBS is thought to be a stress related condition. Further stress caused by having the IBS further serves to exasperate the condition. Because of the potentially embarrassing nature of the problem it can lead to panic attacks. If a person has a panic attack they can then become fearful of having further attacks, this leads to a feeling of anxiety and worry. As with any illness that restricts quality of life, it can lead to depression. Note, there are many levels to depression, the person is not always aware that they are depressed about the problem, they may just describe themselves as “negative” etc. People often only become aware that they were depressed when it lifts and they begin to notice the difference in how they feel.
The can be several different pieces to this problem
– caused by having IBS or any major illness that affects quality of life
Depression often has several distinct emotions:
- Sense of being overwhelmed
Because of the sense of hopelessness there tends to be extreme negativity with depression. This negativity can often sabotage treatment methods. The person will often be overwhelmed by the problem.
-due to the potentially embarrassing nature of this problem
Panic attacks can occur with this problem. When a person has an attack in some cases they may go on to have further attacks. Having a panic attack can lead to a fear of having panic attacks, which further exasperates the condition and creates further stress.
- Causation of the original IBS
IBS can often be created by stress. Stress is accumulative. The body has a certain level of stress which it is able to deal with. When the individual is exposed to more and more stress they reach a point where their body’s natural stress management capabilities are overwhelmed and it begins to malfunction.
People often think that they have dealt with past stressful events because those events are no longer uppermost in their mind. This is seldom the case. If when the person focuses their thoughts intensely on the event and they still experience the feelings, then that event is still having an impact on their bodies overall stress load.
The objective is that once de-stressed, any further stress should not push the overall stress levels above point B. On-going stress is unavoidable. Therefore the bodies overall stress load needs to be well within the A-B zone so that any normal day to day stress will not overload the bodies management capacity and push the person into the overload zone.
The natural sequence of treatment
Initially when treating this problem there can be many parts of the problem competing to be dealt with first.
Sometimes when a client begins to talk about it, they start to get upset. In that particular type of case you are often dealing with feelings of sadness (a component of depression). In order to make the program as comfortable as possible I would deal with that first, until they could think of the problem and just accept that it has occurred without any negative feeling, just a sense of acceptance.
Depression can lead to extreme negativity, low energy, sadness about the condition and a sense of hopelessness. Each of these may need to be treated early within the course of the program as they can impede treatment. The sense of hopelessness at it’s most extreme can lead to the client not following through with therapy. If it was at that level I would deal with it very early on. Also the feeling of being overwhelmed by the problem can also hinder progress and may need to be dealt with early so that the client begins to feel the problem is manageable.
The process can be envisaged as a multi- layer problem in which you are targeting and taking each layer off, one by one until there are no more layers.
Generally if the client does not exhibit feelings of sadness or any other strong negative feelings as we discuss the problem and its history, I would identify all stressors that occurred immediately prior to the on-set of IBS and deal with these first. Making sure there is absolutely no remaining negative emotion about any of the stressful events. When you shift negative emotion other subtle shifts occur within the mind, such as the event may seem dimmer or further away or they may just feel dissociated from it. Also when you shift negative feelings the thoughts/ cognitions automatically change. All of these shifts can be used to verify that the stressor is no longer affecting the client.
Identifying the first occurrence of high anxiety or panic attack would then be the next priority. Again, all negative feelings are dealt with.
IBS can be a very embarrassing problem, clients can actually mess themselves. One client describing one such event said she was, “horrified” when she thought of the experience. She was frightened of going out and having another attack. Her fears were producing extreme anxiety and causing the very thing she wanted to avoid. The way to treat this is to eliminate all emotional intensity from the initial horrifying experience and all subsequent ones so that the client can talk about them in a very dispassionate way, yes, the event happened, but it is over. It is just an event from their past. In other words the mind has processed out the experience and is no longer re-living it every time the person thinks about going out. If you compare this to working with a computer (admittedly a very complex computer), effectively you are taking out the program that says that going out is dangerous. In other words, rebooting the computer to its normal baseline setting prior to the onset of the “horrifying” experience.
Since emotions are held in different parts of the body it is useful to get the client to notice the shift in physical sensations that can occur within the session, itself, so they can attribute the shift to the work done. Noticing that the nervous feeling in the stomach has shifted/ gone can have a powerful positive effect on the client. This again can lead to greater optimism, which after all is the opposite of depression.
When you have dealt with all of the above the stress load on the body is substantially reduced.
As a final step to treatment, I would identify any negative self image/ esteem issues and deal with those, as well as any beliefs that are not working in a way to enhance the clients way of life. After being identified I would work on shifting these to a more helpful positive belief pattern.