Hypnotherapy for irritable bowel syndrome: patient expectations and perceptions

Therap Adv Gastroenterol. 2022 Feb 15;15:17562848221074208.doi: 10.1177/17562848221074208. eCollection 2022.

Anne-Sophie Donnet 1, Syed Shariq Hasan 2, Peter J Whorwell 3


Author information

1. Neurogastroenterology Unit, Wythenshawe Hospital, Manchester, UK.

2. Hypnotherapy Unit, Wythenshawe Hospital, Manchester, UK.

3. Neurogastroenterology Unit, Wythenshawe Hospital, Manchester M23 9LT, UK.


Introduction: Numerous studies have shown that hypnotherapy (HT) is effective in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) using traditional symptom severity end points. However, there is now interest in capturing the patient's perception of their illness and treatment because what patients expect from their treatment may differ from that of their healthcare provider.

Objective: To record patient perceptions and expectations of hypnotherapy as well as their symptom response.

Methods: 150 consecutive IBS patients (116 females, 34 males, aged 16-81 years) receiving hypnotherapy completed questionnaires recording IBS symptom severity, quality of life, noncolonic symptoms, anxiety and depression levels before and after treatment. Their expectations and perceptions of HT were also recorded, including a free text reflection.

Results: 121 patients (81%) responded to treatment consistent with our previous experience. Symptom severity scores, noncolonic symptoms, quality of life, anxiety and depression significantly all improved after HT (p < 0.001). Expectancy of an improvement with hypnotherapy was greater in those who did not respond to treatment (63%) than those who did (57%, p < 0.001). Scepticism and apprehension were common before treatment and replaced with enthusiasm afterwards. Free text responses after treatment were overwhelmingly positive. Patients also reported a variety of other benefits and even 20 of 29 symptom nonresponders (70%) still considered treatment worthwhile.

Conclusion: Although initially perceived negatively, hypnotherapy improved symptoms and resulted in a wide range of additional benefits. Expectation did not necessarily influence outcome. Recording IBS symptoms alone does not fully capture the patient's experience of treatment and needs to be considered in future research.

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