A new cognitive-behavioural, skills-based treatment intervention program that could help patients with bowel diseases has been developed by psychologists at the University of Georgia.
Teenagers with IBD, including Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, often have serious trouble coping with the disorders and the new program could reduce physical symptoms and increase adaptive coping strategies.
With symptoms such as abdominal pain, frequent diarrhoea, delayed growth and intestinal or rectal bleeding, IBD is associated with elevated stress levels and poor emotional functioning.
The study involved 24 female teenagers age 11-17.
"We saw significant improvements in these adolescents' physical symptoms and coping strategies following treatment," said Ronald Blount, professor of clinical psychology at UGA and an author of the study. "Parents, who were also involved in the study, reported reductions in catastrophic thoughts related to their daughters' pain and improved behavioral reactions related to their daughters' physical symptoms. We aimed to teach parents to become coaches for their daughters to help them better manage their symptoms."
24 adolescent girls and their parents involved in the study were divided into two groups for the one-day intervention. One group began training in the new protocols immediately, while the second was "wait-listed" as a control group, though all eventually received the training.
It was followed by six weeks of web-based coping skills program, including weekly homework assignments and group chat sessions.
"We found the chat component was especially helpful because people's schedules sometimes get in the way of a group getting together. They were able in the chats to talk about their feelings and develop a very real sense of community. While there's a benefit to them being in the same room, the online community turned out to be very important. It's an isolating disease, and we hope they learned that their psychology plays an important role in how they feel physically," said McCormick.
"We were pleased to see that parents reported significant increases in their children's use of adaptive coping strategies when the children were in pain," said Blount.
The research was just published online in the journal Inflammatory Bowel Diseases.