Ask the Expert
Stephan R. Weinland, PhD
Many people experience distress and anxiety when their doctor makes a recommendation that they see a psychologist. This reaction often comes from the belief that a referral to a psychologist carries with it assumptions about symptoms being “all in your head” or the result of “mental illness”. These are two of the biggest misconceptions about thepractice of psychology in a medical setting, and they can often stand in the way of patients achieving a meaningful reduction in symptoms. In this column, I hope to dispel some of these misconceptions around psychology in a medical setting, and in doing so communicate a few of the benefits you might be able to achieve in working with a psychologist to address your symptoms of IBS.
First things first, your physical problems are real! If your doctor gives you a ecommendation to meet with a psychologist it does not mean that the symptoms are “all in your head” or the result of “mental illness.” Your experience of IBS is likely to be debilitating to you, and it can have wide ranging effects on your loved ones, yourself and activities that you want to engage in. Psychologists and physicians work together, with the understanding that the mind and body are connected. If you are feeling ill and having many symptoms of IBS, you may also experience an increased level of stress and discomfort. This stress and discomfort contribute to a cycle of worsening symptoms that can spiral into more severe IBS. Psychologists and physicians work together with you to interrupt that cycle and help you learn to decrease the number and severity of your symptoms.