CBT and long-term health conditions

Although Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) has been shown to be an effective way of treating a number of different mental health conditions, another important way CBT can be used is to treat people with long-term health conditions, such as arthritis and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Although these are physical complaints and CBT cannot cure them, it can be very successful with helping people cope with their symptoms. As CBT is a practical therapy, it can focus on particular specific problems. These strategies can then be used for a lifetime. CBT can also be used alongside medication if the condition is severe. If used with hypnosis i.e. Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy (CBH), for some people, the combination can also be extremely effective.

It is well established that hypnosis, for IBS, is an effective treatment.

Any harmful, unhelpful thoughts which may trigger health problems, or make them worse are identified. The aim is then to change the ways of thinking to avoid these ideas. A certain amount of dedication and persistence by the individual is required to achieve optimum results.

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In the case of IBS, CBT and CBH usually involve teaching the individual specific strategies for calming the body and reducing their anxiety. They learn to cope with the unpleasant symptoms of IBS and to be able to face the difficult situations in life that can cause stress and trigger an attack of IBS. This can involve people monitoring which foods impacts negatively on their condition. They would note how they felt while eating, anxious, happy, relaxed, stressed etc to see if they can see a pattern emerging.

CBT combined with medical treatment has been shown to be more effective than medical treatment alone in reducing IBS symptoms.

CBT has also been shown to significantly improve sleep and reduce pain in arthritis sufferers.

People learn how to control their pain. This can be through diverting their attention and practicing relaxation techniques. The reduction in pain enables them to enjoy a more active lifestyle and this improvement in their quality of life can be maintained. They also find after their course of CBT they are less depressed and have more energy.

A big responsibility is for the client to carry out the work required themself. Literature such as our book ‘Visual CBT’, written by the founders of the College, can be very helpful, as it has been designed to help anybody apply Cognitive Behaviour Therapy to change their life, in a very visual way, using imagery and illustrations. This visual approach makes the CBT very clear and easy to follow.

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