Researchers from UCLA investigated whether a cognitive-behavioral treatment known as Interoceptive Exposure (originally developed for treating panic disorder) targeting visceral anxiety could alleviate the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, a potentially debilitating condition with few efficacious pharmacological or psychosocial treatment options available.

[Ed. Note:  for a fuller explanation of Interoceptive Exposure, click here]

The protocol randomly assigned 110 subjects to receive 10 sessions of either: (a) interoceptive exposure (IE) targeting visceral sensations (b) stress management (SM); or (c) an attention control condition (AC).  They were assessed at baseline, mid-treatment, post-treatment, and follow-up sessions.

The results demonstrated that the Interoceptive Exposure group outperformed Attention Controls on several indices of outcome, and outperformed Stress Management in some domains.  No differences were observed between Stress Management and Attention Controls.

The study results suggest that Interoceptive Exposure may be a particularly efficacious treatment for IBS.

Citation: Craske MG, Wolitzky-Taylor KB, Labus J, Wu S, Frese M, Mayer EA, Naliboff BD. A cognitive-behavioral treatment for irritable bowel syndrome using interoceptive exposure to visceral sensations. Behaviour, Research and Therapy. 2011 Jun; 49 (6-7):413-21. doi: 10.1016/j.brat.2011.04.001. Epub 2011 Apr 19.