irritable bowel syndrome IBS symptoms

Irritable Bowel Syndrome IBS Treatment in Adelaide

What Is Irritable Bowel Syndrome IBS?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a condition that affects a lot of people. The most effective treatment approach is to address both the physical as well as the psychological aspects of IBS anxiety. And so effective therapy includes Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT). Combining these approaches allows for positive and sustainable improvements in IBS symptoms.

What Are The Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a gastrointestinal disorder characterized by a cluster of symptoms related to the function of the digestive system. These symptoms can vary from person to person, and individuals with IBS may experience periods of symptom exacerbation and relief.


Here are common symptoms associated with IBS:

  1. Abdominal Pain or Discomfort:
    • Cramping or sharp pain in the lower abdomen is a hallmark symptom of IBS.
    • Pain often improves after a bowel movement.
  2. Changes in Bowel Habits:
    • Diarrhea: Frequent loose or watery stools.
    • Constipation: Difficulty passing stools, infrequent bowel movements, or a feeling of incomplete evacuation.
  3. Bloating and Gas:
    • Abdominal bloating and increased gas production may contribute to discomfort.
    • Bloating may be more pronounced after eating or in association with specific foods.
  4. Altered Stool Consistency:
    • Stool consistency may vary, ranging from loose and watery to hard and lumpy.
    • Changes in stool form and appearance are common.
  5. Mucus in Stool:
    • Some individuals with IBS may notice the presence of mucus in their stools.
  6. Urgency to Have a Bowel Movement:
    • A sudden and strong urge to have a bowel movement may occur.
  7. Incomplete Evacuation:
    • Feeling as though there is more stool to pass even after having a bowel movement.
  8. Food Intolerance:
    • Certain foods may trigger or exacerbate symptoms in individuals with IBS.
    • Common triggers include certain types of carbohydrates (FODMAPs), fatty foods, and gas-producing foods.
  9. Stress and Anxiety:
    • Stress and emotional factors can often worsen symptoms or trigger flare-ups.

IBS sufferers may experience a combination of symptoms. In addition to the physical symptoms, people also become anxious, depressed or become socially isolated.


The Benefits of Combining Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) with Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT) for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common, chronic gastrointestinal disorder that significantly impacts the quality of life for millions of people worldwide. Characterized by symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, and altered bowel habits, IBS can be debilitating. While the exact cause of IBS remains unclear, it is widely recognized that psychological factors play a crucial role in the manifestation and exacerbation of its symptoms. Two highly effective therapeutic approaches for managing IBS are Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). Combining these therapies offers a comprehensive and powerful treatment strategy. This blog delves into the benefits of integrating CBT and ACT for treating IBS, exploring how this combined approach can lead to improved patient outcomes and quality of life.

Understanding Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is a structured, time-limited therapy that addresses the relationship between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Developed by Aaron Beck in the 1960s, CBT is founded on the idea that negative thought patterns contribute to emotional distress and maladaptive behaviors. By identifying and challenging these negative thoughts, individuals can alter their emotional responses and behaviors, leading to improved physical and mental health.

Key Components of CBT:

  • Cognitive Restructuring: This involves identifying and challenging distorted or unhelpful thoughts. Patients learn to recognize patterns of negative thinking and to reframe these thoughts in a more positive or realistic light.
  • Behavioral Activation: Encouraging engagement in positive and rewarding activities. This helps break the cycle of inactivity and withdrawal that can exacerbate depressive symptoms and other emotional issues.
  • Problem-Solving: Developing strategies to address specific problems that contribute to stress and anxiety. This includes breaking down complex problems into manageable parts and developing practical solutions.
  • Skills Training: Developing coping strategies and improving stress management, social skills, and assertiveness. This includes teaching relaxation techniques, time management skills, and effective communication.

Understanding Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, developed by Steven C. Hayes in the 1980s, is a mindfulness-based approach that encourages individuals to accept their thoughts and feelings rather than fighting or avoiding them. ACT emphasizes living in accordance with one’s values and taking committed action toward meaningful goals, even in the presence of uncomfortable emotions or thoughts.

Key Components of ACT:

  • Acceptance: Embracing thoughts and feelings without judgment or resistance. This helps individuals to stop struggling against their internal experiences and reduce the impact of negative emotions.
  • Cognitive Defusion: Changing the way individuals relate to their thoughts by creating distance between themselves and their thoughts. This helps reduce the power of negative thoughts over their behavior.
  • Mindfulness: Focusing on the present moment and becoming aware of one’s thoughts, feelings, and sensations in a non-judgmental way. Mindfulness practices help individuals stay grounded and reduce anxiety and stress.
  • Values Clarification: Identifying what is truly important to the individual and committing to living in alignment with these values. This gives a sense of purpose and direction, which can be particularly motivating.
  • Committed Action: Taking action guided by one’s values, even in the face of obstacles. This involves setting goals and making concrete plans to achieve them, despite any difficulties that may arise.

The Synergy of CBT and ACT in Managing IBS

Combining CBT and ACT provides a more robust and comprehensive treatment approach for IBS. Here are some key benefits of integrating these two therapies:

1. Comprehensive Treatment Approach

CBT focuses on changing negative thought patterns and behaviors, while ACT emphasizes acceptance and mindfulness. Integrating these approaches addresses both the cognitive and emotional aspects of IBS, providing a more holistic treatment plan. This dual approach helps individuals understand and manage their IBS symptoms from multiple perspectives.

2. Balanced Focus on Change and Acceptance

One of the main strengths of combining CBT and ACT is the balanced focus on change and acceptance. CBT aims to change unhelpful thoughts and behaviors, while ACT promotes acceptance of thoughts and feelings. This balance reduces the pressure to change immediately and encourages individuals to accept themselves and their experiences, which can be particularly helpful for those who experience chronic IBS symptoms.

3. Enhanced Emotional Regulation

Both CBT and ACT offer effective strategies for managing emotions, but they do so in different ways. CBT helps individuals reframe negative thoughts that contribute to emotional distress, while ACT teaches acceptance and mindfulness techniques to observe and experience emotions without becoming overwhelmed. Together, these approaches can enhance emotional regulation and resilience, making it easier for individuals to manage the stress and anxiety that often accompany IBS.

4. Greater Emphasis on Values and Meaning

ACT places a strong emphasis on living in alignment with personal values, which can provide a sense of purpose and direction in life. While CBT primarily focuses on symptom reduction, integrating ACT encourages individuals to consider what is truly important to them and take meaningful actions toward those values. This can lead to a more fulfilling and purpose-driven life, even in the presence of IBS symptoms.

5. Improved Stress Management

Stress is a well-known trigger for IBS symptoms. CBT provides practical techniques for identifying and managing stressors, while ACT encourages acceptance of stress and the development of mindfulness practices. Together, these approaches can improve stress management skills, reducing the impact of stress on IBS symptoms.

6. Encouraging Long-Term Change

Sustainable IBS management often requires more than just symptom relief; it involves ongoing personal growth and development. The integration of CBT and ACT promotes long-term change by helping individuals develop a deeper understanding of themselves, their values, and their thought patterns. This comprehensive approach fosters lasting transformation and prevents relapse into old patterns of stress and symptom exacerbation.

Practical Applications of Combined CBT and ACT for IBS

Therapists can integrate CBT and ACT in various ways to maximize the benefits for their clients. Here are some practical applications:

1. Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)

MBCT combines elements of CBT with mindfulness practices from ACT. This approach is particularly effective for managing IBS, as it helps individuals observe their thoughts and emotions without judgment. By incorporating mindfulness, clients learn to recognize and accept their IBS symptoms, reducing the emotional and physical impact.

2. Acceptance and Cognitive Restructuring

Combining ACT’s acceptance strategies with CBT’s cognitive restructuring can help clients manage IBS more effectively. For example, clients can practice accepting their IBS symptoms while challenging the validity and usefulness of negative thoughts related to their condition, reducing their emotional intensity and physical impact.

3. Values-Driven Behavioral Activation

Integrating CBT’s behavioral activation with ACT’s values clarification can enhance motivation and engagement in constructive activities. Clients can identify activities that align with their values and use behavioral activation techniques to incorporate these activities into their daily lives, reducing the likelihood of IBS symptom exacerbation.

4. Cognitive Defusion and Thought Challenging

Integrating ACT’s cognitive defusion techniques with CBT’s cognitive restructuring can help clients develop a healthier relationship with their thoughts. By learning to defuse from unhelpful thoughts and challenge their validity, clients can reduce the impact of negative thinking on their emotions and physical symptoms.

Case Studies and Research Supporting the Combined Approach

Case Study 1: Sarah’s Journey to IBS Management

Sarah, a 35-year-old woman, had been struggling with IBS for over a decade. Her symptoms included severe abdominal pain, bloating, and irregular bowel movements, which significantly affected her daily life and well-being. Traditional medical treatments provided limited relief, and her condition was exacerbated by stress and anxiety. Sarah decided to seek psychological treatment and was introduced to a combined CBT and ACT approach.

CBT Techniques: Sarah’s therapist first worked with her to identify and challenge her negative thought patterns related to her IBS. Sarah often thought, “I can’t go anywhere without worrying about my IBS,” which led to increased anxiety and avoidance behaviors. Through cognitive restructuring, Sarah learned to reframe these thoughts to, “I can manage my symptoms and still participate in activities I enjoy.”

ACT Techniques: Alongside CBT, Sarah practiced mindfulness and acceptance techniques. She learned to observe her physical sensations and thoughts without judgment, reducing the emotional intensity of her symptoms. Sarah also clarified her values, recognizing that spending time with her family was important to her. Despite her IBS, she committed to engaging in family activities, accepting that discomfort might still be present.

Outcome: Over several months, Sarah experienced significant improvements. Her anxiety levels decreased, she became more active, and her IBS symptoms became more manageable. The combined CBT and ACT approach provided her with practical tools to handle her symptoms and live a more fulfilling life.

Research Evidence

Research supports the effectiveness of combining CBT and ACT for IBS management. A study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research found that a combined CBT and ACT approach significantly reduced IBS symptoms and improved quality of life in patients compared to a control group receiving standard care. Participants reported decreased anxiety and depression, better stress management, and an enhanced ability to cope with their symptoms.

Challenges and Considerations

1. Individual Differences

While the combined CBT and ACT approach can be highly effective, it is essential to consider individual differences. Each patient’s experience with IBS is unique, and treatment should be tailored to their specific needs and circumstances. Therapists must be flexible and adaptive in their approach, ensuring that the techniques used are appropriate for each individual.

2. Treatment Adherence

Adherence to the therapeutic process is crucial for achieving positive outcomes. Some patients may find it challenging to consistently practice the skills and techniques learned in therapy. Therapists can enhance adherence by providing clear instructions, offering regular support and encouragement, and addressing any barriers to participation.



Danielle is dedicated to empowering clients to restore a natural state of calm, balance and wellness within themselves.

By adopting a person centred approach Danielle guides each client on their own highly personal healing journey.


  • In her comfortable and calming treatment room conveniently located in Payneham, South Australia with access to off-street parking.

  • Alternatively clients can choose to have sessions on Zoom in the comfort of their own home.