September 04, 2015
1 min read

Emotional awareness, expression training comparable to relaxation training for improving IBS symptoms

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Data from a randomized controlled trial presented at the AGA’s 2015 James W. Freston Conference in Chicago, showed a novel emotional awareness and expression training intervention improved IBS symptoms, distress and quality of life as effectively as relaxation training.

Prompted by recent data that suggest emotional awareness and expression strategies may be superior to relaxation training, which typically emphasize suppressing negative emotions, researchers developed the Emotional Awareness and Expression Training (EAET) intervention and compared it to relaxation training and treatment as usual. They enrolled 106 adult patients with IBS (80.2% women) who reported symptom severity, psychological functioning and quality of life at baseline and were then randomly assigned to one of the interventions or treatment as usual. EAET and relaxation training involved three weekly 50-minute one-on-one therapy sessions, and patients were re-evaluated at 4 and 12 weeks.

EAET was associated with reduced IBS symptom severity scores at 4 weeks compared with treatment as usual (P = .004), while relaxation training did not produce significantly different symptom severity scores compared with EAET or treatment as usual. EAET and relaxation training also reduced anxiety (P = .003 and P = .001, respectively) and hostility (P = .01 and P = .03, respectively) at 4 weeks compared with treatment as usual, and relaxation training reduced depression, as well (P = .002). These improvements were maintained in the EAET and relaxation training groups at 12 weeks, but the treatment as usual group improved, so the differences were no longer significant except for quality of life (both P < .001 at 4 weeks; P = .004 and P = .02 at 12 weeks, respectively).

“A brief intervention that targeted unresolved stress and conflict by enhancing emotional awareness and expression was as successful as relaxation training in improving symptoms, distress, and quality of life in IBS,” the researchers wrote. “This suggests the potential value of emotional processing interventions for this population. Future research should attempt to determine the types of patients for whom this emotional intervention is best suited.” – by Adam Leitenberger


Thakur ER, et al. Presented at: James W. Freston Conference; August 29-30, 2015; Chicago.

Disclosure: Healio Gastroenterology was unable to confirm relevant financial disclosures at the time of publication.