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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 February 15, 2019

Why Is Goal Setting Important to a Truly Fulfilling Life?

Why Is Goal Setting Important to a Truly Fulfilling Life?

In Personal Development-speak, we are always talking about goals, outcomes, success, desires and dreams. In other words, all the stuff we want to do, achieve and create in our world.

And while it’s important for us to know what we want to achieve (our goal), it’s also important for us to understand why we want to achieve it; the reason behind the goal or some would say, our real goal.

Why is goal setting important?

1. Your needs and desire will be fulfilled.

Sometimes when we explore our “why”, (why we want to achieve a certain thing) we realize that our “what” (our goal) might not actually deliver us the thing (feeling, emotion, internal state) we’re really seeking.

For example, the person who has a goal to lose weight in the belief that weight loss will bring them happiness, security, fulfillment, attention, popularity and the partner of their dreams. In this instance, their “what” is weight-loss and their “why” is happiness (etc.) and a partner.

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Six months later, they have lost the weight (achieved their goal) but as is often the case, they’re not happier, not more secure, not more confident, not more fulfilled and in keeping with their miserable state, they have failed to attract their dream partner.

After all, who wants to be with someone who’s miserable? They achieved their practical goal but still failed to have their needs met.

So they set a goal to lose another ten pounds. And then another. And maybe just ten more. With the destructive and erroneous belief that if they can get thin enough, they’ll find their own personal nirvana. And we all know how that story ends.

2. You’ll find out what truly motivates you

The important thing in the process of constructing our best life is not necessarily what goals we set (what we think we want) but what motivates us towards those goals (what we really want).

The sooner we begin to explore, identify and understand what motivates us towards certain achievements, acquisitions or outcomes (that is, we begin moving towards greater consciousness and self awareness), the sooner we will make better decisions for our life, set more intelligent (and dare I say, enlightened) goals and experience more fulfilment and less frustration.

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We all know people who have achieved what they set out to, only to end up in the same place or worse (emotionally, psychologically, sociologically) because what they were chasing wasn’t really what they were needing.

What we think we want will rarely provide us with what we actually need.

3. Your state of mind will be a lot healthier

We all set specific goals to achieve/acquire certain things (a job, a car, a partner, a better body, a bank balance, a title, a victory) because at some level, most of us believe (consciously or not) that the achievement of those goals will bring us what we really seek; joy, fulfilment, happiness, safety, peace, recognition, love, acceptance, respect, connection.

Of course, setting practical, material and financial goals is an intelligent thing to do considering the world we live in and how that world works.

But setting goals with an expectation that the achievement of certain things in our external, physical world will automatically create an internal state of peace, contentment, joy and total happiness is an unhealthy and unrealistic mindset to inhabit.

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What you truly want and need

Sometimes we need to look beyond the obvious (superficial) goals to discover and secure what we really want.

Sadly, we live in a collective mindset which teaches that the prettiest and the wealthiest are the most successful.

Some self-help frauds even teach this message. If you’re rich or pretty, you’re happy. If you’re both, you’re very happy. Pretty isn’t what we really want; it’s what we believe pretty will bring us. Same goes with money.

When we cut through the hype, the jargon and the self-help mumbo jumbo, we all have the same basic goals, desires and needs:

Joy, fulfilment, happiness, safety, peace, recognition, love, acceptance, respect, connection.

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Nobody needs a mansion or a sport’s car but we all need love.

Nobody needs massive pecs, six percent body-fat, a face lift or bigger breasts but we all need connection, acceptance and understanding.

Nobody needs to be famous but we all need peace, calm, balance and happiness.

The problem is, we live in a culture which teaches that one equals the other. If only we lived in a culture which taught that real success is far more about what’s happening in our internal environment, than our external one.

It’s a commonly-held belief that we’re all very different and we all have different goals — whether short term or long term goals. But in many ways we’re not, and we don’t; we all want essentially the same things.

Now all you have to do is see past the fraud and deception and find the right path.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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