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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 March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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