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Monday, 4 November, 2002, 00:02 GMT
Outlook affects bowel disorder patients
Woman in pain
IBS affects women more than men
People's perception of their bowel disorder affects how they cope with the condition, researchers have found.

If they believe their Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is due to an external factor, such as a virus and that it can be controlled, they cope well.

But if they believe it is caused by psychological factors, they are less likely to cope with IBS.

Researchers from the University of Kent interviewed over 200 patients with IBS.

Anxiety

They were asked about their symptoms and what they believed about the causes and the severity of the disorder.

Patients were also asked to what extent people believed their IBS can be controlled or cured, how they coped with it and how anxious or depressed they were.

It was found that those who believed it could be controlled or cured were likely to accept their IBS and have a better quality of life.

But those who thought IBS was a very serious illness with potentially serious consequences suffered more anxiety and depression.

They also had a lower quality of life.

'Acceptance'

But Drs Claire and Derek Rutter, who carried out the research, said these people were more likely to try to avoid thinking or dealing with their IBS, which meant they were likely to fare less well.

They said therapy may help IBS patients to feel better.

Writing in the British Journal of Health Psychology, they said: "The effectiveness of psychological therapy for IBS patients may improve if therapists challenge patients' perceptions of serious consequences and may offer alternatives to behavioural disengagement and venting emotions.

"Therapists might also try to increase control beliefs and acceptance of the illness."

Lifestyle limited

IBS varies between patients, but it usually includes cramping discomfort, a feeling of fullness or bloating, constipation and diarrhoea.

Women are affected more than men.

Sufferers often desperately need to go to the toilet with little warning, which severely limits their lifestyle.

No-one knows what causes the condition, although it is suggested that stress can make it worse.

Most people are advised to try to manage the condition by changing their diet and trying to reduce stress levels, as well as taking other medication.

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