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5 Reasons IBS is Psychological

5 Reasons IBS is Psychological

While functional disorders including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can have serious physiological symptoms, they seem to have no biological cause. Those with IBS tend to exhibit distinct patterns of thinking, which seem to contribute to the disorder. A common explanation for IBS comes from Deary, Chalder, and Sharpe and points to a vicious circle linking symptoms to catastrophic belief to heightened anxiety which reinforce perception of symptoms and strengthens this cognitive process. Research has shown that altering thinking patterns in IBS patients can also alter the symptoms. Here are 5 psychological features of IBS and tips on reducing them.

1. Attentional bias to pain

Martin and Chapman found people with IBS orient to pain words faster than neutral words while healthy controls orient to neutral words faster than pain words. This suggest that people with IBS find pain more salient, but it is unclear whether this causes the disease or is an effect.
Tip: Try to actively seek out positive stimuli (such as smiling faces) and train your mind to make the positive aspects more salient.

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2. Illness schema

A diary study giving different prompts on different days found that the cues influenced the severity of IBS symptoms (Martin & Crane; 2003). Cues were designed to draw attention to IBS symptoms, neutral aspects of the condition (i.e time of doctor appointments), or leisure activities. Patients’ symptom severity significantly increased on days with IBS context cues and decreased for neutral cues.
Tip: If changing focus can change symptoms, try doing things to distract you from the illness.

3. Heightened illness vulnerability

While those with IBS develop sensitivity for GI symptoms, they also interestingly feel more vulnerable to other physical illnesses completely unrelated to IBS. A study comparing perceived lifetime risk of deep vein thrombosis of those with IBS to those with asthma (chronic illness control) and healthy controls, found people with IBS had the greatest perception of risk of illness (Martin & Crane; 2002).
Tip: Try to think of likely, common causes of a pain and eliminate that possibility before jumping to conclusions of a more serious, less likely illness.

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4. Learned illness behaviors

Illness behaviors vary widely among people and include things like taking time from work and activities, eating special foods, and other unique things people do when sick. These behaviors are higher in those with functional disorders and research has found that greater parental reinforcement of this behavior during childhood leads to lower perceived resistance to illness in adulthood (Martin & Crane; 2002).
Tip: Try not to alter your behavior significantly when you feel symptoms. Since there isn’t much that will help with chronic illnesses, it may be best to continue with your normal routine if possible. (Obviously if symptoms are severe, it’s important to take proper care)

5. Comorbid conditions

About 50% of IBS patients also suffer from another psychiatric disorder, while those with inflammatory bowel disease are no more likely than the rest of the population to have a psychiatric disorder. This link specifically between IBS and psychiatric illnesses suggests psychotherapy could offer a solution to alleviate both IBS symptoms and other distressing illnesses possibly contributing.
Tip: If your condition is comorbid, cognitive behavioral therapy could be a good place to start since the illnesses could be amplifying one another.

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These psychological factors are not meant to discount the serious nature of functional disorders; rather, they should be encouraging treatment through psychotherapy since traditional methods have shown little success.

Sources:
1. Deary, V. Chalder, T. & Sharpe, M. (2007). The cognitive behavioral model of medically unexplained symptoms: A theoretical and empirical review.
2. European Journal of Pain, 14,207–213.
3. Chapman, S.C.E. & Martin, M. (2011). Attention to pain words in irritable bowel syndrome: Increased orienting and speeded engagement. British Journal of Health Psychology, 16, 47-60.
4. Crane, C. & Martin, M. (2003). Illness schema and level of reported gastrointestinal symptoms in irritable bowel syndrome. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 27,185 – 203.
5. Crane, C. & Martin, M. (2002). Perceived vulnerability to illness in individuals with irritable bowel syndrome. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 53, 1115-1122.
6. Crane, C. & Martin, M. (2002). Adult illness behavior: the impact of childhood experience. Personality and Individual Differences, 32, 785-798.

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Last Updated on January 3, 2020

The 10 Essential Habits of Positive People

The 10 Essential Habits of Positive People

Are you waiting for life events to turn out the way you want so that you can feel more positive about your life? Do you find yourself having pre-conditions to your sense of well-being, thinking that certain things must happen for you to be happier? Do you think there is no way that your life stresses can make you anything other than “stressed out” and that other people just don’t understand?  If your answer is “yes” to any of these questions, you might find yourself lingering in the land of negativity for too long!

The following are some tips to keep positive no matter what comes your way. This post will help you stop looking for what psychologists call “positivity” in all the wrong places!  Here are the ten essential habits of positive people.

1. Positive people don’t confuse quitting with letting go.

Instead of hanging on to ideas, beliefs, and even people that are no longer healthy for them, they trust their judgement to let go of negative forces in their lives.  Especially in terms of relationships, they subscribe to The Relationship Prayer which goes:

 I will grant myself the ability to trust the healthy people in my life … 

To set limits with, or let go of, the negative ones … 

And to have the wisdom to know the DIFFERENCE!

 2.  Positive people don’t just have a good day – they make a good day.

Waiting, hoping and wishing seldom have a place in the vocabulary of positive individuals. Rather, they use strong words that are pro-active and not reactive. Passivity leads to a lack of involvement, while positive people get very involved in constructing their lives. They work to make changes to feel better in tough times rather than wish their feelings away.

3. For the positive person, the past stays in the past.

Good and bad memories alike stay where they belong – in the past where they happened. They don’t spend much time pining for the good ol’ days because they are too busy making new memories now. The negative pulls from the past are used not for self-flagellation or unproductive regret, but rather productive regret where they use lessons learned as stepping stones towards a better future.

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4. Show me a positive person and I can show you a grateful person.

The most positive people are the most grateful people.  They do not focus on the potholes of their lives.  They focus on the pot of gold that awaits them every day, with new smells, sights, feelings and experiences.  They see life as a treasure chest full of wonder.

5. Rather than being stuck in their limitations, positive people are energized by their possibilities.

Optimistic people focus on what they can do, not what they can’t do.  They are not fooled to think that there is a perfect solution to every problem, and are confident that there are many solutions and possibilities.  They are not afraid to attempt new solutions to old problems, rather than spin their wheels expecting things to be different this time.  They refuse to be like Charlie Brown expecting that this time Lucy will not pull the football from him!

6. Positive people do not let their fears interfere with their lives!

Positive people have observed that those who are defined and pulled back by their fears never really truly live a full life. While proceeding with appropriate caution, they do not let fear keep them from trying new things. They realize that even failures are necessary steps for a successful life. They have confidence that they can get back up when they are knocked down by life events or their own mistakes, due to a strong belief in their personal resilience.

7. Positive people smile a lot!

When you feel positive on the inside it is like you are smiling from within, and these smiles are contagious. Furthermore, the more others are with positive people, the more they tend to smile too! They see the lightness in life, and have a sense of humor even when it is about themselves. Positive people have a high degree of self-respect, but refuse to take themselves too seriously!

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8. People who are positive are great communicators.

They realize that assertive, confident communication is the only way to connect with others in everyday life.  They avoid judgmental, angry interchanges, and do not let someone else’s blow up give them a reason to react in kind. Rather, they express themselves with tact and finesse.  They also refuse to be non-assertive and let people push them around. They refuse to own problems that belong to someone else.

9. Positive people realize that if you live long enough, there are times for great pain and sadness.

One of the most common misperceptions about positive people is that to be positive, you must always be happy. This can not be further from the truth. Anyone who has any depth at all is certainly not happy all the time.  Being sad, angry, disappointed are all essential emotions in life. How else would you ever develop empathy for others if you lived a life of denial and shallow emotions? Positive people do not run from the gamut of emotions, and accept that part of the healing process is to allow themselves to experience all types of feelings, not only the happy ones. A positive person always holds the hope that there is light at the end of the darkness.  

10. Positive person are empowered people – they refuse to blame others and are not victims in life.

Positive people seek the help and support of others who are supportive and safe.They limit interactions with those who are toxic in any manner, even if it comes to legal action and physical estrangement such as in the case of abuse. They have identified their own basic human rights, and they respect themselves too much to play the part of a victim. There is no place for holding grudges with a positive mindset. Forgiveness helps positive people become better, not bitter.

How about you?  How many habits of positive people do you personally find in yourself?  If you lack even a few of these 10 essential habits, you might find that the expected treasure at the end of the rainbow was not all that it was cracked up to be. How could it — if you keep on bringing a negative attitude around?

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I wish you well in keeping positive, because as we all know, there is certainly nothing positive about being negative!

Featured photo credit: Janaína Castelo Branco via flickr.com

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