Online Study: Cognitive Mediators of Bowel Discomfort, Swinburne University, Australia, August 2017

August 12, 2017

The following study currently seeking men and women at least 18 years old with gastrointestinal conditions was received directly from the research team and is posted at their invitation. We are advised that the study has received institutional ethical approval. All information available to IBS Impact is below and at the study link. Please address any further questions or concerns directly to the research team at the phone number or email address given in the description.

Swinburne University
Do psychological concerns drive your bowel discomfort – help us develop a scale to better measure these processes.
Psychological distress and gastrointestinal symptoms commonly occur together and are frequently reported in community samples. Your responses will help us better understand how thinking patterns impact upon gastrointestinal discomfort. Further your participation will also help us to develop a new scale that can help better identify and target psychological processes associated with gastrointestinal discomfort.  The study involves completing an online questionnaire which should take approximately 60 minutes to complete.

Go into the draw to win 1 of 4 $100AUS Amazon.com vouchers
At the end of the study you are welcome to add your email address (stored independently from the questionnaire data) in order to go into a draw to win 1 of 4 $100AUS Amazon.com vouchers. Winners will be drawn on the 31st of October 2017.

Who can participate?
Anyone over the age of 18 is eligible to participate in the study.
How to participate?
To participate, please click on the link below:
https://swinburnefhad.au1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_1LK9FqocoRelzCZ

For more information, please contact the research team:
Principal Investigator: Dr Simon Knowles, (03) 9214 8206, email: sknowles@swin.edu.au
Other investigators involved: Dr Pragalathan Apputhurai (Lecturer in Statistics), Dr Rebecca Burgell (Consultant Gastroenterologist, The Alfred Hospital), Ms Sarina Cook (Research Assistant) & Professor Laurie Keefer (Health Psychologist, Susan and Leonard Feinstein IBD Clinical Center, New York).

IBS Impact welcomes researchers affiliated with academic, medical or pharmaceutical entities, or reputable organizations representing IBS or related or commonly overlapping conditions, to contact us directly with additional studies or surveys they wish to be considered for posting. A contact form is available on the main IBS Impact website.

IBS Impact makes these announcements available for general information, and encourages its members and site visitors to make their own individual, informed choices about their potential participation. Additional studies can be found by clicking on the Research– Clinical Trials sub-category in the right sidebar of this blog on our main website IBS studies page. Please be sure to check the date at the top or bottom of a given post, as many posts from this blog remain visible in search engines for several years, and studies stop accepting volunteers or conclude the trials after a period of time. IBS Impact, as an entity, is not directly affiliated with any research sponsor or organization and receives no funding from any source for studies, surveys or links we feature on this blog, the main site or social media.


Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology Seeks 2014-15 Health Psychology Postdoctoral Fellow

December 18, 2013

Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago is seeking applicants for a 2014-2015 health psychology postdoctoral fellowship in the Behavioral Medicine Service of the Division of Gastroenterology. This is a clinical position with research opportunities working with irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease and esophageal disorders. For the full description of necessary qualifications, responsibilities and application procedures, please see the following link at Northwestern’s Center for Psychosocial Research in GI.

http://www.medicine.northwestern.edu/divisions/gastroenterology-and-hepatology/research/keefer-lab/projects

Northwestern is an active center for clinical care and research into gastrointestinal conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and other less commonly known digestive disorders. In particular, this research usually has focused on the psychosocial aspects of gastrointestinal conditions, such as stigma, social impact and perceived quality of life from the point of view of people living with these chronic conditions. As a blog and website founded by people with IBS, most of the time, we have chosen to highlight resources, open studies and other information of interest to that group, However, we also have many readers, social media followers, and supporters among the various health and human service professionals who specialize in gastrointestinal disorders, chronic illness or chronic pain.

Researchers of irritable bowel syndrome have long recognized that the dysfunctions in the brain-gut axis involved in IBS make psychological treatments such as gut-directed hypnotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and occasionally other psychological approaches particularly effective for many people with IBS, even those who do not have coexisting mental health issues. In addition, a statistically significant subset of people with IBS do have overlapping conditions of anxiety and/or depression, either as preexisting diagnoses, or as a result of living with the symptoms and stresses of chronic IBS.

Historically, the number of available mental health professionals who are knowledgeable and well-experienced specifically in IBS and other functional gastrointestinal disorders has been relatively small, making it difficult for most affected people who might benefit from these treatment options to gain access to appropriate, affordable care in or near their home communities. This is true even in many major metropolitan areas with renowned teaching medical centers. It is in the interest of people with IBS as a community to support the continuing education and training of more professionals who might encounter people with IBS in their practices, or find IBS to be a new area of interest or focus

IBS Impact thanks Northwestern for its continuing commitment to gastrointestinal disorders and mental health, and hopes for a robust and fruitful response to this search.


Northwestern University Survey for Mental Health Professionals on Treating Gastrointestinal Conditions

October 14, 2013

The Center for Psychosocial Research In GI at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University in Chicago is an active center for research into gastrointestinal conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and other less commonly known digestive disorders. In particular, this research usually has focused on the psychosocial aspects of gastrointestinal conditions, such as stigma, social impact and perceived quality of life from the point of view of people living with these chronic conditions. As a blog and website founded by people with IBS, most of the time, we have chosen to highlight resources, open studies and other information of interest to that group, However, we also have many readers, social media followers, and supporters among the various health and human service professionals who specialize in gastrointestinal disorders, chronic illness or chronic pain.

Researchers of irritable bowel syndrome have long recognized that the dysfunctions in the brain-gut axis involved in IBS make psychological treatments such as gut-directed hypnotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and occasionally other psychological approaches particularly effective for many people with IBS, even those who do not have coexisting mental health issues. In addition, a statistically significant subset of people with IBS do have overlapping conditions of anxiety and/or depression, either as preexisting diagnoses, or as a result of living with the symptoms and stresses of chronic IBS.

Historically, the number of available mental health professionals who are knowledgeable and well-experienced specifically in IBS and other functional gastrointestinal disorders has been relatively small, making it difficult for most affected people who might benefit from these treatment options to gain access to appropriate, affordable care in or near their home communities. This is true even in many major metropolitan areas with renowned teaching medical centers. It is in the interest of people with IBS as a community to support the continuing education and training of more therapists and other professionals who might encounter people with IBS in their practices, or find IBS to be a new area of interest or focus. Consequently, IBS Impact encourages mental health professionals to consider completing the following brief online survey by CRPGI regarding your experience or lack thereof with gastrointestinal conditions and possible interest in further training in this area. This survey is being conducted by Sarah Kinsinger, PhD and Laurie Keefer, PhD, and the estimated time for completion is 2 minutes.

http://cprgi.org/announcements/calling-mental-health-professionals/

IBS Impact thanks CRPGI for its continuing commitment to gastrointestinal disorders and mental health, and hopes for a robust and fruitful response to guide its future endeavors.


Guest Post for IBS Awareness Month: Stigma and Chronic Illness

April 15, 2013

This week’s guest blogger is Tiffany Taft, PsyD. of Oak Park Behavioral Medicine, LLC. and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Dr. Taft and her partner in private practice, Stephanie Horgan, LCSW, work with adults and children with a range of chronic medical conditions, with a special interest and expertise in gastrointestinal disorders like IBS and IBD. Dr. Taft and Ms. Horgan also share blogging at “Mind Your Body.” Thank you to Dr. Taft for volunteering to write for IBS Impact about her ongoing research interest of stigma, how it relates to the need for greater IBS awareness, and what readers can do to further that cause. To participate in some current research studies for IBS involving Dr. Taft or her colleagues, see the Northwestern Center for Psychosocial Research in GI.

“What did you do this time to get sick?”  “You’re just too stressed out, get a grip.”  “How can your symptoms be that bad when there’s nothing medically wrong with you?”

How many people living with IBS have heard some version of these statements at some point in their life?  While not unique to IBS, chronic illness stigma is a pervasive and complex problem that impacts millions of people every day.  You may have heard the term stigma before, which originated in ancient Greece to refer to bodily signs to expose something unusual or bad about the moral status of a person.  In 1963, the sociologist Erving Goffman expanded the concept of stigma to include:

An individual possesses an undesired differentness from what [people] had anticipated…we believe the person with a stigma is not quite human…we may perceive his defensive response to his situation as a direct expression of his deficit and a justification of the way we treat him.”*

The effects of stigma on patient outcomes are widely documented, with the most research being done with those living with mental illness or HIV/AIDS.  From these studies, we know that stigma can do the following:

  • Increase the risk of an illness to relapse.
  • Decrease the likelihood that a person will take their medication as prescribed.
  • Increase feelings of anxiety or depression.
  • Decrease a person’s quality of life.
  • Increase feelings of social withdrawal and isolation.

So what makes an illness more likely to be stigmatized?  Perhaps surprisingly, an illness that is invisible or concealable is more likely to be stigmatized than one that is more obvious to others.  The more disruptive the symptoms are, the more likely a condition is to be stigmatized.  A disease that has periods of relapse and remission is more likely to be viewed negatively by others.  The origin of the condition, whether it was present at birth, the result of an accident, or seems to be under the person’s control also contributes to stigma.  Finally, the aesthetic qualities of the illness contribute to stigma.

Based on this list, it makes sense that people with IBS feel stigmatized.  IBS is an invisible illness that usually has periods where symptoms aren’t too severe and other times when they can be downright disabling.  The discussion of bowel symptoms like diarrhea, constipation, gas and bloating are generally not welcome in regular conversation, or are met with ridicule.  And because IBS is not well understood, and lacks an underlying obvious organic cause (there are no ulcers in the colon, for example) there is an implication that the symptoms aren’t real, or really as bad as the person says.

In 2009, I published the first study to systematically evaluate stigma perceptions in people living with IBS.  We started the project by interviewing several patients and asking them what their interactions had been like with friends, family, co-workers, and their physicians.  We found that 57% of people we interviewed reported feeling some degree of stigma toward their IBS, and that the greatest sources of stigma came from friends, co-workers and employers.  Themes that were endorsed included that the public has very little knowledge about IBS, the illness is not taken seriously, there’s an implication that symptoms are “all in their head” and self-inflicted.  Logically, many of our study participants were hesitant to tell others that they had IBS for fear of negative reactions.

To follow up with this, I compared the stigma experiences of patients with IBS to those with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), such as Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis.  Participants with IBS reported significantly more stigma, especially from health care providers, with 27% of IBS patients saying they experienced moderate to high levels of stigma compared to 8% of those with IBD.  The finding that people with IBS experience stigma from health care providers is important; anecdotally, I can attest to hearing many stories from my clients with IBS who are frustrated by their interactions with physicians, and with some we work to undo the damage done by the “all in your head” insinuation they’ve received for years.  More recent studies repeatedly show that a positive physician-patient relationship is very important in the successful treatment of IBS, but patients report that their expectations often aren’t met.

So, that’s great, Dr. Taft.  What can be done?  Unfortunately stigma is a tough nut to crack, but thanks to the hard work that’s been done in other areas like mental health and HIV we know what can help reduce the effects of stigma.  One of the best remedies for stigma is increasing awareness, which normalizes a condition and brings it into regular conversation.  Patient advocacy organizations, like IBS Impact, make an enormous difference in spearheading awareness campaigns and educating the public about the condition.   Other things that you can do include:

  • Learn and share the facts about IBS and about people who have IBS, especially if you hear or read something that is untrue.
  • Listen to the concerns of the people whose attitudes you want to change.  What are their feelings about IBS?  Do they have any fears?  Misinformation?
  • Assert yourself.  Be frank with the person and use “I” language, such as “I felt really hurt when you implied I did something to cause my IBS.”
  • Generate conversations about the stigma of IBS on a regular basis.  Be creative in doing so, like using Facebook or Twitter to spread the word about IBS stigma.
  • Use humor.  This can dispel some of the tension that comes with confrontation and can also disarm a person who is reacting negatively.  For some, this comes more naturally than others.  If this is a strength you have, use it!

I would like to thank Nina Pan of IBS Impact for having me as a guest blogger for IBS Awareness Month.  If you have any questions, feel free to email me at ttaft@opbmed.com.  You can also follow us on Facebook (facebook.com/opbmed) and Twitter @OPBMed.

*Goffman, E. Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity. Simon & Schuster, Inc. 1963

Dr. Tiffany Taft is a licensed clinical psychologist and is a leading expert on the psychological and social issues of chronic digestive illnesses.  She is co-director of Oak Park Behavioral Medicine LLC, a private practice near Chicago, where she works with children and adults with chronic medical conditions.  Dr. Taft is also an Assistant Professor at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, where she worked in the division of gastroenterology’s Center for Psychosocial Research in GI for 8 years. She has published several articles on psychosocial issues for people living with chronic digestive conditions and was part of a landmark clinical trial for Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) as a treatment of IBS.


UNC Online Chat: “The Role of the Psychologist” on January 10, 2012

January 2, 2012

The University of North Carolina Center for Functional Gastrointestinal and Motility Disorders has announced the next online chat in its “Evening with the Experts” series. It will take place Tuesday, January 10, 2012 from 8:00-10:00 p.m. Eastern time.  Stephan Weinland, PhD of the Center will be presenting on””The Role of the Psychologist” in regard to functional gastrointestinal disorders like IBS.

People with IBS, and/or their concerned family members and friends are encouraged to make time to attend and participate in this and other UNC chats, which are an excellent, unique opportunity to interact directly with leading researchers, ask questions and give them feedback about our needs and concerns.

To participate in this or any UNC chat, go to the Center home page about 10 minutes before the starting time, click on the chat icon and follow the instructions given there. The current chat announcement on the Center site also includes a list of upcoming topics scheduled for the next several months.

Those who are unfamiliar with UNC’s online chat series may also find this previous post by IBS Impact on July 29 to be of interest.


Online Chats with Experts in Functional Gastrointestinal and Motility Disorders

July 29, 2011

Many readers of this blog may not be aware of an excellent, unique resource offered by the University of North Carolina Center for Functional GI Disorders, which is one of the most renowned centers in the United States for treatment and research of IBS and other functional GI and motility disorders.

The UNC is also known for active public outreach and education on functional GI and motility disorders and periodically hosts free, public online chats designed for people with functional GI and motility disorders. The UNC calls this series “Evening with the Experts.” These chats are usually scheduled for 2 hours. The evening begins with a video presentation by a UNC clinician and/or researcher on a previously announced topic. This portion typically lasts for 30-40 minutes. Following the video, the featured presenter. and often one or two other UNC researchers, are present to chat with the public online and in real time for the remainder of the session. Obviously, the UNC clinicians are not able to diagnose or treat individual people over the Internet, and depending on the number of participants at the chat, they may not be able to address every question. However, they can and do respond to general questions, concerns and the occasional suggestion, direct people to other general resources as appropriate, and explain their topics and cutting edge research in a respectful way that most affected people can understand, even if they are not scientists.

This is a tremendous opportunity, especially for people with IBS or their loved ones who find that their local health care providers do not explain IBS to them adequately, are not fully up to date on standards of care or research on IBS, dismiss them or their IBS, or any number of common complaints from IBSers. Many people at UNC are world authorities and pioneers in the functional GI field who see patients whose FGIMDs are the most difficult to treat, and who have lived and breathed FGIMD research every day for years. These people take time out of their own busy evenings to make themselves available at no charge to any member of the public with an Internet connection fast enough to handle video, audio and chat technology. Some fine professionals do pay attention to IBSers if we take the time to show up and speak up. Unfortunately, many past chats have been sparsely attended, and some have been cut short to less than the allotted 2 hours because of this.

Knowledge is power. If you or a loved one has one or more functional GI or motility disorders, please consider taking 2 hours of your time when a chat is offered in order to learn scientifically accurate, state of the art information that may help you or someone close to you. If you cannot attend a specific chat, many video portions are archived on the Center website, although for privacy reasons, chat transcripts are not available. That is all the more reason to be there in the first place.

The next chat, scheduled on Tuesday, August 16, 2011, from 8:00-10:00 p.m. Eastern time, is with Stephan Weinland, PhD, who will present and chat on the topic of “Psychological Treatments: CBT, Hypnosis and Stress Management.”

For this or any other chat, go to the UNC Center home page about 10 minutes before the start time, click on the chat icon, and follow the instructions there. It is not necessary to register in advance.

Before some reader objects, no, IBS is not “in our heads”, but because of the dysfunction of the brain-gut axis, many IBSers have found cognitive behavioral therapy, hypnotherapy and/or stress management helpful to them.

IBS Impact is an advocacy and awareness site, not one that focuses on treatment/management. Please make your own informed choices about your individual situation in consultation with qualified health care providers.